LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
March 10 2008
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.
- The Recipe For Successful Heresy
- Can Cell Division Repair Biochemical Damage of Aging?
- A $20 Life Extension Blogging Challenge
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
THE RECIPE FOR SUCCESSFUL HERESY
Biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey presented at the recent BIL conference on the topic of how to bring about radical, lasting change in the field of gerontology - how to be a successful heretic, as he put it:
"The set of thoughts on successful organized heresy [is] a good insight into the DNA of the Methuselah Foundation. The Foundation might be viewed as an organized heresy in the making that aims to reform gerontology into a goal-oriented community working to repair aging. It's also good advice for anyone seeking to build an organization around a vision that manages to Get Stuff Done."
CAN CELL DIVISION REPAIR BIOCHEMICAL DAMAGE OF AGING?
Work on asymmetric division in bacteria suggests that it might be possible to manipulate the process of cellular division to load more of the biochemical damage present in the parent cell onto one of the daughter cells. This would leave the less damaged daughter cell rejuvenated to some degree - remember that aging is nothing more than an accumulation of damage. Researchers theorize that this process might already be taking place in our stem cells and germ line cells, but much more work is needed to confirm any of this speculation:
"At the end of this road may be methodologies for rejuvenating cell populations, such as aging stem cells, through manipulating the processes of asymmetric division - passing off biochemical damage to a daughter population that is then discarded. Or not. As Aubrey de Grey points out, these experiments really should be repeated in cell populations or single-celled organisms before we get too excited - there are, after all, significant differences between a cell and a bacterium."
A $20 LIFE EXTENSION BLOGGING CHALLENGE
I'm always pleased to see people helping to expand the global conversation on healthy life extension. That conversation, wending its way through many media in many parallel threads, forms the foundation upon which we can build effective patient advocate groups for longevity research:
"One area that I have become particularly passionate about is longevity research - not just the idea of living longer, but the idea of biologically living as a 20-something indefinitely without experiencing age related disease or decay. Despite many advances in research over the past decade, this important concept has not yet been widely embraced by the public ... Why are we happy to continue pushing the envelope of age by relying on technological advancements in one breath, and in the next breath failing to become adamant supporters of anti-aging research?
"So here's my challenge to you: think about this issue [and] make a post to support this issue on your blog. In exchange, I'll do follow up posts here at wrevenue.com linking back to you from my PR6 blog and I'll even do one better: the first 100 bloggers who do a blog post about this issue to voice their demand for serious research to stop the aging process, and who write me to give me a link to their post, will each earn $20 paid via Paypal by yours truly - don't delay to write your post and claim your easy $20!"
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/
Biotech Versus Age-Related Hair Loss (March 07 2008)
The San Francisco Chronicle looks at a strangely popular branch of regenerative research: "Some may feel sheepish raising the question, given the weightier problems needing a scientific fix. ... Industry sources estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion a year on approved drugs for hair loss and hair transplants. That explains why a small but determined bunch of companies and academics are mining the hair shaft for clues to the molecular mechanisms of balding. They're throwing an arsenal of high-tech tools at the condition: genome studies, stem cell stimulation, gene therapy, a type of tissue engineering often called 'hair cloning' and even robotics. ... Experiments are challenging the long-held notion that new follicles are never formed in humans and that follicles can never be revived once they become inactive. ... If new follicles form on top of a bald scalp, will they have the decadeslong lifespan of a baby's follicles, or will they quickly succumb to the male hormones that caused the baldness in the first place? ... We view it as a very early, very high-risk project. But if it works, it would be great."
More On the Biochemical Origins Of Diabetes (March 07 2008)
Via EurekAlert!, a look at the results of neglecting your health: "The islet cells in the pancreas can compensate with increased insulin production only for so long when confronted with chronic obesity and inactivity. As a result glucose levels start to rise causing a host of problems ... Continually revved up insulin production, the kind that results from overeating and obesity, slowly dulls the body's response to insulin. As a result, blood sugar levels start to creep up, setting the stage for diabetes-associated complications such as blindness, stroke and renal failure. To make matters even worse, chronically elevated blood sugar concentrations exacerbate insulin resistance. The vicious circle gets rolling [when] out-of-control blood sugar levels disable the molecular switch that normally shuts off sugar production in the liver in response to rising levels of insulin." This is a personal future you can avoid through diet and exercise - nothing complicated about it. Why risk shortening your life and missing out on the era of working rejuvenation medicine that is just around the corner?
Review: Do You Want To Live Forever? (March 06 2008)
Thoughts on bias prompted by the film "Do You Want To Live Forever?" can be found at Quiet Please: "As I already explained when I reviewed Radical Evolution, it is interesting that the people who tend to be opposed to a drastically increased or to an unlimited lifespan tend to view those who seek to abolish death as mad geniuses who will do the world more harm than good. They also believe that today's definition of normal is the one that must be upheld forever, the one that must endure. This obviously implies a complete disregard for what used to be considered normal (a very slippery concept when appraised in the context of history and within cultural considerations), and naturally, for what could become normal. It also implies, in my view, a total selfishness and narrow-minded belief that what we have today is as good as it is ever going to get and that our 20th and 21st century values (or rather, their values) are better and more appropriate than past or future values."
Popular Arguments For and Against Longevity (March 06 2008)
Future Current posts another presentation transcript from last year's Securing the Longevity Dividend symposium: "I am speaking today about the most popular arguments for and against longevity. This is not going to be a discussion of the scientific arguments that are put forth - I will leave that to the biogerontologists and the specialists. These are the kind of arguments that do come out of academia and some of the political lobbies, but these are also the kind of arguments you hear from the person on the street that you bump into. If you mention this in casual conversation, you can almost assuredly expect these kinds of retorts and objections to these sorts of issue of life extension. ... One of the most common arguments that is put forth in opposition to life extension is the appeal to nature. I'm sure we are all familiar with this - the suggestion that what is natural is inherently good or right, and that what is unnatural is somehow bad or wrong. A number of critics make the claim that life extension is a violation of the natural order - that humanity is tampering with nature, which is inherently good." Critics are always willing to overlook any number of accepted unnatural portions of the modern human condition to strike at the one they don't like.
Caution on Longevity Genes (March 05 2008)
Replication is a cornerstone of the scientific method, as we are reminded in this paper: "The exceptional longevity of centenarians is due in part to inherited genetic factors, as deduced from data that show that first degree relatives of centenarians live longer and have reduced overall mortality. In recent years, a number of groups have performed genetic association studies on long-living individuals (LLI) and young controls to identify alleles that are either positively or negatively selected in the centenarian population as consequence of a demographic pressure. Many of the reported studies have shown genetic loci associated with longevity. Of these, with the exception of APOE, none have been convincingly reproduced. ... Our results show that, at present, except for APOE, none of the selected genes show association with longevity if carefully tested in a large cohort of LLI and their controls, pointing to the need of larger populations for case-control studies in extreme longevity."
The Origin of Blood Stem Cells (March 05 2008)
As noted at EurekAlert!: "Scientists now can take embryonic stem cells, the cells that can become any tissue type in the body, and coax them into becoming all the cells in the blood supply ... However, they can't make blood stem cells that [self-renew] and don't differentiate prematurely when transplanted into patients. The only way this currently can be achieved is by manipulating the cell's nuclear regulatory machinery with genes using retroviruses. To generate blood stem cells that are safe for use in patients [scientists must] learn how to generate self-renewing blood stem cells in a more natural way, by providing the correct developmental cues from the environment in which the cells develop. ... This recent study indicates that the first niche for expansion of blood stem cells is the placenta's vascular labyrinth, where oxygen and nutrients are exchanged between the mother and the fetus. The findings show the placenta harbors two different microenvironments, one area where blood stem cells originate and another area, the labyrinth, that nurtures them, allowing them to expand in number. ... The labyrinth is a source of many growth factors and cytokines. We just need to identify what those signaling molecules and cues are that are nurturing those cells when in the placenta."
Biomagnets For Targeted Cell Destruction (March 04 2008)
Continuing the targeted anti-cell therapy theme for the day, the BBC looks at the use of magnet-producing bacteria in the role of cell destroyer: "bacteria-produced magnets are better than man-made versions because of their uniform size and shape ... It is hoped one day the magnets could be guided to tumour sites and then activated to destroy cancerous cells. ... They could be guided to the site of a tumour magnetically. Once there, applying an opposite magnetic field would cause the nanomagnets to heat up, destroying cells in the process. They could also potentially be used to carry drugs directly to the cancerous tissue." Great breadth of present initiatives is a key sign of impending progress in any field. The range of potential types of targeted therapy presently explored in the laboratory is broad indeed - bacteria, engineered nanoparticles and viruses, lasers, magnetic fields and combinatory compounds, to name but a few. The more competing methodologies the better, given the importance of this technology to the medicine of the near future.
More Medical Nanoparticles (March 04 2008)
The ability to safely and quickly destroy very specific types of cell in a living body will be a core technology for the new medicine of the next few decades. There's no shortage of potential targets in the aging body: cancer, senescent cells pumping out damaging biochemicals, malconfigured immune cells, and so forth. Researchers are making good progress on this technology base: "Now, we're engineering sophisticated nanostructures to elude the body's natural defenses, locate tumors and other diseased cells, and release a payload of therapeutics, contrasting agents, or both over a controlled period. ... Getting intravenous agents to their intended targets is no easy task. ... To overcome this problem, we hypothesized and developed a multifunctional [multistage delivery system (MDS)] comprising stage 1 mesoporous particles loaded with one or more types of stage 2 nanoparticles, which can in turn carry either active agents or higher-stage particles. We have demonstrated the loading, controlled release and simultaneous in vitro delivery of quantum-dots and carbon nanotubes to human vascular cells. ... Once on site, the molecules can be released in a controlled way and then the MDS will degrade in 24 to 48 hours, be transformed into orthosilicic acid and leave no trace in the body." The medicine of tomorrow, arriving soon.
IGF-1 and Centenarians (March 03 2008)
The New Scientist reports on more results of the study of Ashkenazi Jewish centenarians: researchers have "identified gene variants that make people live longer. Men may miss out, as all carriers identified so far are women. They are also slightly shorter than average. ... Both mutations affect the receptor for insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), a driver of bodily growth and maturity, especially during puberty. By making the receptor slightly faulty, the mutations may disrupt IGF1 binding and decelerate the process of maturation and ageing. In support, they found circulating levels of IGF1 to be 37% higher in carriers of the mutation, probably to compensate for the underperforming receptor. Carriers were also 2.5 centimetres shorter on average than the general population. ... This milestone result will no doubt stimulate a worldwide search for IGF1 mutations in other centenarian populations." As the short piece notes, the research community has ammassed a wide range of results on IGF-1 and longevity in lower animals.
Stem Cells and Accelerated Aging (March 03 2008)
Via ScienceDaily, researchers postulate that the biochemical root of HPGS, or progeria, causes accelerated aging by affecting stem cell populations: "The cause of HGPS, a mutated protein called progerin, was identified in 2003. However, the mechanism by which progerin causes the widespread clinical effects of HGPS has been unclear. ... [researchers have now] found that progerin activates genes involved in the Notch signaling pathway, a major regulator of stem cell differentiation - the process by which stem cells give rise to the mature cells that make up different tissues. ... Their experiments revealed that progerin profoundly affects the fate of these stem cells, greatly skewing the rate at which they mature into different tissues. ... Progerin is present at low levels in the cells of healthy people. One could envision a scenario in which progerin's effects on the Notch pathway and, by extension, on adult stem cells could, over time, lead to many of the tissue changes we commonly associate with the aging process."