LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
December 03 2007
The Longevity Meme Newsletter is a weekly e-mail containing news, opinions and happenings for people interested in healthy life extension: making use of diet, lifestyle choices, technology and proven medical advances to live healthy, longer lives.
- When Will the Future Arrive?
- Sirtuin Research and Regulation
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
WHEN WILL THE FUTURE ARRIVE?
When will the future of healthy life extension medicine arrive? What is the likely shape of the near future of medical science? How do we usefully think about these things?
"My view of the biotech and medical research field suggests that the development cycle for new products medians out at around a decade - a far cry from the rate of advance possible in less regulated industries, such as the development of computing devices. Calorie restriction mimetics look to come in under that median, while gene therapy is lagging far behind. Applications of autologous stem cell therapies look to fall somewhere in between. There are plenty of other examples if you care to go digging. The conservative late adopter waits for the second business cycle for any product he can afford to wait for. The second round is always better than the first, more effective, cheaper and more widely available."
From that viewpoint, there's plenty going on now that, if supported and encouraged, will blossom into highly effective technologies in the 2020s and 2030s. For example, the early 2030s will be likely be an age of routine mitochondrial DNA replacement. It will start in what is presently late middle age, an outpatient procedure that your physician will badger you into doing every couple of years. It'll be a pain to schedule, like the biopsies and exams, but skipping it will be like not checking for cancer - just dumb.
Why would you want to replace your mitochondrial DNA? More here:
SIRTUIN RESEARCH AND REGULATION
Follow the link below a mixed bag of recent news and comments on progress in developing calorie restriction mimetic drugs - and other therapies - from sirtuin research. This broad development initiative is very much a creature of the present oppressive regulatory environment for applied aging science:
"One can applaud the success of researchers in obtaining funding and carving out a viable, competitive, well-funded field from the first studies of genes and calorie restriction. But the path to applied longevity science is not to call triumph at finally pushing something (anything!) past the impossible hoops blocking applied aging research - it should be to destroy the regulatory nonsense rules preventing progress.
"For so long as the present regulatory structure forbids the development and commercialization of real, working anti-aging medicine, there is no financial incentive to develop real, working anti-aging medicine. Even if you have a promising start, of any sort, every venture-funded, competitive effort to turn science into medical technology will go towards turning that start into a patch, an after-the-fact and comparatively ineffective treatment for some age-related condition, rather than a treatment for aging itself.
"Here is a simple rule for life: you won't accomplish task A by working on task B. That task A is cut off by regulatory fiat is the real problem here."
The highlights and headlines from the past week follow below.
Remember - if you like this newsletter, the chances are that your friends will find it useful too. Forward it on, or post a copy to your favorite online communities. Encourage the people you know to pitch in and make a difference to the future of health and longevity!
LATEST HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION HEADLINES
To view commentary on the latest news headlines complete with links and references, please visit the daily news section of the Longevity Meme: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/
More Video For SENS Science Underway (November 30 2007)
Via the Methuselah Foundation blog, it seems Foundation volunteers are digging in to expand the existing range of online video explaining the science of SENS: "Aubrey de Grey and I will be recording several short videos explaining the science of SENS, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, for the benefit of the general public. These videos are intended to serve as an intermediate step between the brief text overviews at the SENS website and the scientific literature. This is a similar niche to that successfully occupied by Ending Aging, but intended to address a slightly different target demographic. The resulting videos will be hosted at the Foundation website, as well as being uploaded to YouTube and Google Video. We hope they do as wonderful a job of raising awareness that 'SENS makes sense' as the many existing presentations and interviews with Aubrey have done in past years. ... We would like this to be an ongoing process of engagement, reaching out to hit those points brought up by those people interested in SENS, and will be coming back to the studio many times in the months ahead. In order for this series to make as much impact as possible, please chip in with suggestions for slides, specific questions to tackle, or anything presentation-wise you feel we should bear in mind while we're recording."
Thoughts on the Prospects For Longevity (November 30 2007)
From an Independent op-ed on the continual upward revision of actuarial projections: "Researchers for the Cass have done a lot of sums and worked out that the current accepted figure for life expectancy - 76.6 years for men and 81 years for women - is probably too conservative as far as the younger generation go. ... The slightly odd thing about the Cass Business School was that it was widely reported not as a cause for universal rejoicing but as grounds for alarm. The vocabulary employed was of 'problems' and 'timebombs' and 'catastrophes'. Something similar has been true of recent television programmes about ageing - which generally follow up the good news (life is getting longer) with a furrowed anxiety about the consequences of this alteration to our biological destiny. ... Yes, there might be problems paying the bills, and yes, everything depends on the quality of those extra years. But anyone who really thinks an extra 10 years is a disaster can always volunteer to check out early and help the Treasury's figures. I won't be going a day earlier than I have to. There are too many books to read."
How Much Do We Care About Health and Life? (November 29 2007)
A survey of the world today would suggest we care about as much about health and life in the abstract as we care about anyone else's property - which is to say, not enough to do anything much about it. We'll grasp at the easy non-solutions, but putting in meaningful work? That's hard. I can't say I agree with more than half of what this Huffington Post columnist has to say, and his grasp of the science of longevity is miserable, but here's some of the half worth reading: "People who grasp whatever is at hand in the hope that it will slow or stop the rising water of mortality are not to be faulted or derided. But there are those who exploit this vulnerability to achieve or maintain power, or for financial gain, who exploit with twisted science and do great harm in the process. ... So far, what is possible now, is a longevity of 122.5 years, and I see no reason why a breakthrough cannot occur during this century to make it possible for many people to attain that age. Meanwhile, research on aging and longevity is underfunded, not overfunded. The cost to the U.S. taxpayers of one month of the Iraq war would fund a serious war against mortality for ten years." What do we really care about in life, enough to do something about it?
An Overblown Claim of Skin Aging Reversal (November 29 2007)
I can see this item from EurekAlert! getting much press, due to the nature of the claim: researchers "have reversed the effects of aging on the skin of mice, at least for a short period, by blocking the action of a single critical protein." That is greatly overstating the case. The researchers have identified a linked network of changes in gene expression that occur with age, and demonstrated that they can reverse those changes through a comparatively simple feat of engineering. The result looks positive at first, but what about the wear and tear and biochemical damage of age? What about the buildup of AGEs and other harmful compounds? What about damaged mitochondrial DNA and oxidized lipoproteins? What about the prospects for cancer when damaged skin cells are restored to full operation? This is a good technology demonstration, and a good investigation of the complex genetic mechanisms of a single organ - but it is not a general reversal of skin aging, as will no doubt be trumpeted in the general press.
The Mouse AGEMAP (November 28 2007)
Via EureAlert!, a hint of what the next generation of analysis and discovery in aging research will look like: "The study [uses] a newly available database called AGEMAP to document the process of aging in mice at the molecular level. ... Both changes in tissues and cellular damage lead to changes in gene expression, and thus probing which genes change expression in old age can lead to insights about the process of aging itself. ... some tissues (such as the thymus, eyes and lung) show large changes in which genes are active in old age whereas other tissues (such as liver and cerebrum) show little or none, suggesting that different tissues may degenerate to different degrees in old mice. ... there are three distinct patterns of aging, [and] tissues can be grouped according to which aging pathway they take. This result indicates that there are three different clocks for aging that may or may not change synchronously, and that an old animal may be a mixture of tissues affected by each of the different aging clocks. Finally, the report compares aging in mice to aging in humans. Several aging pathways were found to be the same, and these could be interesting because they are relevant to human aging and can also be scientifically studied in mice." To repair the machinery you must know the machinery.
Thoughts on Healthy Life Extension (November 28 2007)
From practicalethics: "One of the most important ideas in public health is that we can never really save lives: we just extend them. If a doctor 'saves the life' of a 60 year old patient who later dies at 90 years of age, then she hasn't actually stopped the patient dying, but has extended the patient's life by 30 years. ... People typically view [scientific] life extension projects very differently to how they view efforts to cure diseases, such as cancer. They see the former as interesting and somewhat exciting, whereas they see the latter as a moral imperative which deserves urgent government funding. These views are not consistent. All medicine is fundamentally about extending our lives and allowing us to be as healthy as possible while we live. Fighting aging pursues these objectives just as much as fighting a particular disease. If we could find some way of slowing aging so as to extend the human life span by 30% it would produce more benefit than curing any single disease. There is thus a moral imperative to significantly increase research into life extension." The field of "ethics", as usual, seems to have much to do with how to spend other people's money - but the points on the role of medicine stand whether or not we're discussing disposition of tax dollars.
Another Cancer Resistant Engineered Mouse (November 27 2007)
Via FierceBiotech, news of another gene-engineered mouse that doesn't get cancer: "researchers discovered that the Par-4 gene kills cancer cells, but not normal cells. There are very few molecules that specifically fight against cancer cells, giving it a potentially therapeutic application. ... mice born with this gene are not developing tumors. The mice grow normally and have no defects. In fact, the mice possessing Par-4 actually live a few months longer than the control animals, indicating that they have no toxic side effects. ... We originally discovered Par-4 in the prostate, but it's not limited to the prostate. The gene is expressed in every cell type that we've looked at and it induces the death of a broad range of cancer cells, including of course, cancer cells in the prostate. The interesting part of this study is that this killer gene is selective for killing cancer cells. It will not kill normal cells and there are very, very few selective molecules out there like this." You might recall the cancer-immune mice with immune systems capable of destroying tumors - work that was presented at SENS3 and is proceeding towards human trials.
On Searching For the Mechanisms of Longevity (November 27 2007)
Some interesting speculation on longevity genes across species: "The maximum longevity of different species can vary by 100-fold in mammals and by 1,000-fold or more from invertebrates to mammals. However, the life extension effect of single gene mutations or dietary restriction converges on a comparatively minute 1.3- to 1.6-fold difference with controls. It is proposed that this can be due to organization of genes affecting maximum life span in large clusters functionally linked by complex interactions ... A relatively small number of master genes would control the activity of the structural target genes of the whole cluster, strongly facilitating changes in longevity during species evolution. Experimentally manipulating the expression of those master genes would have the potential to increase maximum longevity to a much higher extent than the options available nowadays. ... Fortunately for gerontology, the first highly reliable completed genomes were those of the laboratory rodents and humans, mammals with strongly different maximum longevities, 3-4 years and 122 years, respectively. Comparing them focusing on longevity will help to discover the longevity gene cluster." Should things turn out to work that way, of course - looking for points of simplicity in biology has often proven to be wishful thinking.
Thinking About Ageless Animals (November 26 2007)
Anne C. takes a look at the very long-lived members of the animal kingdom: "rockfish, turtles, and whales [are] all documented to live 200 years or longer without showing signs of aging ... Of the long-lived animals presently known, some appear to have a built in 'negligible senescence' property. ... This is a very important observation because it clearly indicates that the life of an animal is not necessarily inextricable from a fixed 'expiration date' built into his or her deepest inner workings from the start. So while I do not deny the significance of the many human attempts over the years to garner meaning and poetic substance from reflecting upon the bodily breakdown that tends to eventually kill us all, it is well worth pointing out that some of this philosophizing is at least partially rooted in what appears to be a false belief -- that age-related decline of the sort experienced by humans is 'inevitable' in all members of the animal kingdom, and that our own decline somehow 'connects' us with everything else on Earth."
An Interview With Dave Gobel (November 26 2007)
The Speculist interviews Dave Gobel for Fast Forward Radio: "Dave cofounded with Aubrey de Grey the Methuselah Foundation. This is the nonprofit charity that is behind the Methuselah Mouse Prize - a prize for proving life extension technologies in mice. This interview explains why developing life extension matters more, fundamentally, that almost anything else we can put our efforts into. It's also a fascinating glimpse into how the efforts of a few people can be leveraged to change the world. You'll want to hear this one for sure." The Methuselah Foundation is one of the most important efforts today in its influence on the funding and scientific infrastructure for longevity research. We stand at a crossroads, in this time of revolution and progress in bioscience, and few of the paths ahead will lead to rapid progress towards working rejuvenation technologies within our lifetime. It is just as important to steer research towards those paths as it is to convince the world that effective longevity research is possible, plausible and on our doorstep.