Longevity Meme Newsletter, December 10 2007

December 10 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.



- Short Videos by Aubrey de Grey Explaining Longevity Science
- Matching Funds Triple SENS Research Donations Until Year End
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


You may not have seen these short introductory videos before: each briefly explains a single concept in longevity science, starting with some of the basic basics. They are the first in a new series of videos aimed at further bridging the gap between an overview for the layman and scientific publications:


Online video has been a tremendously success in broadening awareness and education for healthy life extension research, and the present state of science. This will continue to be the case, so pick out a few from the video FAQ page above, and forward them on to your friends.


Good news from the Methuselah Foundation, coming as the total pledged to Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) research passes $5 million. Donations to speed research into repairing the damage of aging and extending the healthy human lifespan will be matched 2-to-1 until the end of 2007, expanding your donation threefold:


"You might recall in 2006 that Peter Thiel made a 3 million dollar Matching Challenge to SENS Research, where he matches 50% of donations to research until the end of 2009. Well, our performance and Thiel's example have prompted a supporter and Three Hundred Member, Michael Cooper, to join Peter Thiel. He is offering a $25,000 Matching Challenge of his own until the end of this month.

"Thanks to these generous supporters, the donations are matched cumulatively. That is, a $1 donation to research is first matched with $1 from Cooper. This $2 is then matched with a further $1 by Thiel's Matching Challenge to bring the total donation to $3.

"In this way a donation of $100 is TRIPLED to $300 ...but this multiplier only lasts until the end of this month. Perhaps you might be interested in helping Cooper and Thiel turn their generous matching challenge dollars into research?"

You can find out more on how the Foundation presently employs donations to SENS research by following the link below:



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!




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/

Do We Need Death? (December 07 2007)
Back to Cato Unbound we go, for Ronald Bailey's contribution to the present debate. "Schaub offers no data nor even a plausible line of reasoning that longer healthy lives will result in 'social sclerosis.' In fact, the available evidence cuts the other way. Social and technological innovation has been most rapid in those societies with the highest average life expectancies. Yale University economist William Nordhaus estimates that the huge increase in average life expectancy in the United States, from forty-seven years in 1900 to seventy-seven years today, has been responsible for about 40 percent of the increase in our standard of living. ... the highest expression of human nature and dignity is to strive to overcome the limitations imposed on us by our genes, our evolution and our environment. Future generations will look back at the beginning of the 21st century with astonishment that some well-meaning and intelligent people actually wanted to stop biomedical research just to protect their cramped and limited vision of human nature. Our descendants will look back, I predict, and thank us for making their world of longer, healthier lives possible." Just so. Do we need death? "No. Next question."

Lamin A As a Biomarker of Aging in Skin (December 07 2007)
More on the nuts and bolts of lamin A, the root of accelerated aging in progeria (HGPS), from PLoS One: "90% of HGPS cases carry the [lamin A mutation], activating a splice donor site that results in production of a dominant negative form of lamin A protein, denoted progerin. Screening 150 skin biopsies from unaffected individuals (newborn to 97 years) showed that a similar splicing event occurs in vivo at a low level in the skin at all ages. While progerin mRNA remains low, the protein accumulates in the skin with age in a subset of dermal fibroblasts and in a few terminally differentiated keratinocytes. Progerin-positive fibroblasts localize near the basement membrane and in the papillary dermis of young adult skin; however, their numbers increase and their distribution reaches the deep reticular dermis in elderly skin. Our findings demonstrate that progerin expression is a biomarker of normal cellular aging and may potentially be linked to terminal differentiation and senescence in elderly individuals." This enlarges upon earlier work demonstrating the presence of lamin A defects in normal individuals.

From the Camp of Mild-Mannered Deathism (December 06 2007)
The first of the response essays to Aubrey de Grey's piece at Cato Unbound epitomizes mild-mannered deathism; the instinct that any radical change to the human condition brought on by healthy life extension must be bad. If I had to pick out the one thing the archetypical human hates and fears above all else, it'd be the prospect of change - and that always shows through in discussions of radically increasing the healthy human life span. "Even without the threat of vastly extended tyranny, a nation of ageless individuals could well produce a sclerotic society, petrified in its ways and views. Senescence escorts us, more or less gracefully, off the stage, making room for fresh generations. The aging of individuals may be one condition for societal renascence. Fascinatingly, longevity research in animals suggests that one cost of age-retardation is sterility or decreased fertility. If there are trade-offs between long life and new life, then the quest for individual immortality may pose dangers for the well-being of the human collective, whether at the level of the family, the nation, or the species. While frailty and finitude don't seem such good things, they may be inextricably entwined with other very good things that we would not want to sacrifice." It is sad that so many people would choose the stasis of the now - and death and suffering without end, over and over - rather than immensely positive change and opportunity through longevity science. Talking nonsense about petrified, unchanging ageless societies is projection, methinks.

Stem Cells Point the Way (December 06 2007)
If we knew exactly how stem cells, progenitor cells and other developing cells can produce regeneration without generating new tissue themselves, then we wouldn't need the cells. An example of that truism in action is provided by ScienceDaily: "a protein called connexin43, expressed by the transplanted embryonic heart cells, improved electrical connections to other heart cells. The researchers showed that the improved connections helped activate the transplanted cells deep within the damaged section of the heart tissue. The technique reversed the risk of developing ventricular arrhythmias after a heart attack ... In the past, scientists have transplanted a variety of cell types into failing hearts with modest improvement of function, although transplanting skeletal muscle cells made things worse and led to more arrhythmias. Surprisingly, when [researchers] transplanted embryonic cardiac cells, the hearts' electrical stability and function returned to normal. ... we were able to see how cells used in therapy are working with other cells in a complex organ within a living animal, establishing the mechanism of the therapeutic effect ... [researchers] engineered skeletal muscle to express connexin43 and achieved the same restorative results as they did with the embryonic heart cells."

Viewing a Future of Engineered Eyes (December 05 2007)
The Scientist looks at the future of tissue engineered, perfect eyes: "Picture-perfect vision, with lovely dark pupils and irises of any color you want. Who wouldn't want that? Every person who wears glasses or contact lenses, or who just has that classic wish of the pilot or bird watcher - to see just a little bit better, farther, or more clearly at night - or who, vanity of vanities, wants slightly brighter green eyes, would be delighted to hear that stem cell research is moving us closer to the day when eyes might be created in the lab and implantable. Looming is the prospect of creating human eyes (or at the very least, central components of the eye) for the purposes of replacing, repairing, or regenerating unhealthy or damaged tissue. Scientists are finding pieces of the puzzle, those factors that control the generation of eyes ... If you knew all the genes, and how to turn them on, that you needed to make an eye, you could start with very early embryonic cells and turn on all the right genes and grow an eye in a dish."

$5 Million Pledged For SENS Research (December 05 2007)
If you head over to the Methuselah Foundation, you'll see that the total pledged for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) research has topped $5 million dollars - all raised in the past couple of years. That's a hefty chunk of change, considering one can set up a noteworthy, focused research institute at a major university with just twice that amount these days. Much of the $5 million has been donated by people just like you or I, who know the sort of world they'd like to live in, and who stepped up to the plate to make a difference. This is the sort of thing we all like to see, as supporters of meaningful longevity research and a wide-open future of longer, healthier lives. Widespread support and significant funding for direct, vocal scientific attempts to defeat aging are the best foot forward on the road to that future. Aging will come for us all until we band together and do something about it. When taking advantage of the medical technology of the 2030s, don't you want to be one of the people who can say "we made this technology happen, we saved billions of lives?"

More Building of Better Mice (December 04 2007)
From EurekAlert!, more experimental metabolic engineering: "the research team bred large numbers of mice, fed them a normal chow diet and followed each mouse until its natural death. Half were genetically engineered to make more of a protein in their muscle tissue called uncoupling protein-1. Their littermates did not make excess uncoupling protein. In muscle tissue, uncoupling protein-1 converts the energy from food into heat and mimics the effects of exercise. ... Uncoupling basically means generating inefficient metabolism ... We were a little bit disappointed because we had hoped uncoupling in muscle would slow aging, but maximum lifespan didn't increase. However, the odds of reaching that maximum lifespan did improve in the uncoupled mice. ... mice with the genetic alteration were more likely to live longer, presumably because they were able to avoid age-related diseases. One result appeared in all of the experiments: Decreasing body fat and inflammation in the animals by accelerating muscle metabolism with uncoupling protein delayed death and diseases, including atherosclerosis, diabetes, hypertension and even cancer."

Discover on Inflammation and Aging (December 04 2007)
The inflammaging model is starting to percolate into the popular science press, such as Discover: "In recent years, gerontologists have overturned much of the conventional wisdom about getting old. Aging is not the simple result of the passage of time. According to a provocative new view, it is actually something our own bodies create, a side effect of the essential inflammatory system that protects us against infectious disease. As we fight off invaders, we inflict massive collateral damage on ourselves, poisoning our own organs and breaking down our own tissues. We are our own worst enemy. This paradox is transforming the way we understand aging. It is also changing our understanding of what diseases are and where they come from. Inflammation seems to underlie not just senescence but all the chronic illnesses that often come along with it: diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's, heart attack. ... Inflammatory factors predict virtually all bad outcomes in humans. It predicts having heart attacks, having heart failure, becoming diabetic; predicts becoming fragile in old age; predicts cognitive function decline, even cancer to a certain extent." Strangely, the article fails to talk about the pivotal role of excess body fat in chronic inflammation.

Replacing Cells Lost to Parkinson's (December 03 2007)
As noted at EureAlert!, scientists are making progress in the quality of their technology demonstrations: "Although [domamine or DA] cell-replacement therapy by transplantation of human fetal mesencephalic tissue has shown promise in clinical trials, limited tissue availability means that other sources of these cells are needed. ... [researchers] have identified a new source for DA cells that provided marked benefit when transplanted into mice with a [Parkinson's or PD]-like disease. ... DA cells were derived from ventral midbrain (VM) neural stem cells/progenitors by culturing them in the presence of a number of factors - FGF2, sonic hedgehog, and FGF8 - and engineering them to express Wnt5a. This protocol generated 10-fold more DA cells than did conventional FGF2 treatment. Further analysis revealed that these cells initiated substantial cellular and functional recovery when transplanted into mice with PD-like disease. Importantly, the mice did not develop tumors, a potential risk that has precluded the clinical development of embryonic stem cells as a source of DA cells." Tissue engineering is a fearsomely complex business, but great improvement in quality and cost is inevitable.

Aubrey de Grey at Cato Unbound (December 03 2007)
An article by Aubrey de Grey appears at Cato Unbound, hammering on the basics: "When thoroughly cornered on the question of whether the defeat of aging would be a good thing, [apologists for aging] generally turn as a last resort to the cry 'Okay, but first things first!' The fact that efforts to postpone human aging will definitely not bear much fruit for at least a few decades is held as a reason to deprioritize such efforts in favor of combating already preventable problems. It is trivial to expose the ethical bankruptcy of this position. We lock people up for the same amount of time if they kill people with a gun or with a booby-trap bomb, even though the interval between the murderer's action and the victim’s death differs by several orders of magnitude in the two cases. The same irrelevance of that interval applies to the saving of lives, since action and inaction are morally indistinguishable. We are close enough today to defeating aging that serendipity does not define the timeframe: the sooner and harder we try to do it, the sooner we'll succeed. Thus, our inaction today costs lives - lots of lives."



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