LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
October 06 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.
- SAGE Podcasts on the Evolution of Aging
- Cautions on Antioxidants
- Slow and Steady Wins the Race
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
SAGE PODCASTS ON THE EVOLUTION OF AGING
The latest set of podcasts from SAGE Crossroads focus on the evolution of aging. For the scientists who seek to manipulate metabolic processes to slow aging, the ways in which aging evolved in different species are of great importance to research. You'll find links and some background reading in this Fight Aging! post:
"If you look at the natural world the difference in aging between the shortest lived and longest lived species is vastly greater than that we can create in the laboratory. So, we feel like nature is providing us with good examples and all we need to do is figure out the key mechanisms that differ between the short and the long lived species."
CAUTIONS ON ANTIOXIDANTS
The present scientific consensus on antioxidants is that their operation within the body is subtle and complex. Evidence suggests that consuming antioxidants is largely a waste of time: they aren't going to do anything useful, or go where they are needed.
"Our biology is complex - why would we expect that successfully modifying it with chemicals would be as simple as eating those chemicals? Ingesting antioxidants in the hope of benefit because they happen to do certain things in certain portions of your biochemistry is magical thinking given the evidence on the table to date. It certainly doesn't have the best record in experimental studies.
"The key here appears to be where the antioxidants end up performing their work. Mouse studies have shown that carefully directing antioxidants to the cellular mitochondria extends healthy life span on the order of 20-30% - a fairly complex feat of biochemical engineering that no presently available pill can match. Those studies further showed that no benefit emerges from the same antioxidants sent elsewhere in mouse biochemistry."
SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE
Some food for thought on the way in which you approach the health basics - exercise, diet, supplementation, and relationships with physicians:
"Following up on growing evidence that higher levels of conscientiousness are associated with greater health protection, the authors conducted a meta-analysis of the association between conscientiousness-related traits and longevity. ... Higher levels of conscientiousness were significantly and positively related to longevity. ... Associations were strongest for the achievement (persistent, industrious) and order (organized, disciplined) facets of conscientiousness. ... Results strongly support the importance of conscientiousness-related traits to health across the life span."
The persistent application of good habits and good choices pays well. The basics are not rocket science, but they do make a significant difference over the years.
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/
Biomaterials to Stimulate Regeneration (October 03 2008)
Many branches of medicine are concerned with manipulating tissue and its environment so as to generate the right biochemical signals for increased regeneration - strategies that we hope will become obsolete as researchers learn to create those signals directly. Here is one example: "ChonDux consists of a hydrogel made of polyethylene glycol - a polymer commonly used in a variety of medical products - and a bioadhesive to keep the hydrogel in place after injection. First, the surgeon coats the inside of the cavity where the cartilage is missing with the bioadhesive and then, as in microfracture [surgery], drills tiny holes into the bone next to the cavity. Then the surgeon fills the empty space with the hydrogel and shines UVA light on the material, which causes the polymer to harden from a viscous liquid into a gel. The blood clot that forms from the microfracture then gets trapped in the hydrogel. ... more cells from the bone marrow get trapped in the blood clot when the hydrogel is present, compared with microfracture conducted without the gel. The researchers also noted that the defects fill faster with the biomaterial than without, and that the newly formed tissue more closely resembles true cartilage."
More on Comparative Longevity (October 03 2008)
Researchers continue to try to learn from differences in longevity and metabolism between species: "Haussmann studied cacti and turtles before zeroing in on a small, marine bird that contradicts traditional assumptions about aging. ... Leach's storm-petrels should die young but live a long life and break the conventional rules. First of all, they're small, and there tends to be a relationship between body size and life span. Elephants live longer than humans. Humans live longer than mice. So this bird shouldn't live long, but it does. ... His studies of storm-petrels have shown that certain characteristics of DNA - specifically lengths of the protective telomeres at the tips of DNA - are associated with species that live longer lives and possibly with how susceptible they are to cancer-causing tumors. ... [Bird species] with shorter life spans, such as zebra finches, lost their protective telomere caps quickly over time. Species such as the common tern, which lives to be about 30 years old, had less shortening over time." The petrels apparently produce more antioxidants as well - which may tie into the evidence suggesting that mitochondrial damage is the cause of shortened telomeres. Antioxidants slow the rate of that damage. The question remains as to where telomere length sits in the spectrum of cause and effect.
Submissions Wanted for the Next Hourglass Carnival (October 02 2008)
The next Hourglass blog carnival on the biology of aging will be held at Existence is Wonderful on the 14th. Don't forget to send in your blog posts for consideration ahead of time: "Eligible submissions can cover any aspect of longevity science: biogerontology, current and ongoing research into aging, emerging longevity medicine, research into specific conditions, brain aging, cardiovascular aging, etc. Also encouraged are posts discussing socio-cultural, ethical, philosophical, and economic issues surrounding longevity and longevity research. And as a reminder, you don't need to be a biogerontologist to participate - aging affects 100% of us! If you're interested in participating, please email a link to your submission to hourglass.host @ gmail.com by Monday, October 13, 2008. The Carnival will be posted the following day. I look forward to seeing your posts!"
Assessing Calorie Restriction Effects (October 02 2008)
Ouroboros casts a skeptical eye on research I mentioned a little while ago at Fight Aging!: culturing cells using blood serum from calorie restriction (CR) and alternate day fasting (ADF) volunteers before and after the program to examine the differences. "we used sera collected from those studies to culture human hepatoma cells and assessed the effects on growth, stress resistance and gene expression. ... I was concerned by the lack of phenotypic benefits in cells treated with CR sera, as compared to cells treated with ADF sera: The CR-treated cells exhibited no increase in heat-shock resistance, no decrease in cell proliferation, and no correlation of Sirt1 expression to reduced triglyceride levels. In interpreting this finding, the authors suggest that the increased effects seen in the ADF participant serum could be due to the 'short, regular intervals of complete caloric deprivation,' which might provide a more potent serum profile capable of producing the observed in vitro changes. ... Alternatively, I think that these data could be a result of the cell type used in this assay (a tumor line); it would be interesting to see this experiment repeated on primary cells or a non-cancerous transformed cell line."
Delaying the Degenerative Disease of Aging (October 01 2008)
Another Aging 2008 presentation from the "work to slow aging rather than repair it" contingent: "All of life is trade-offs [and] that is an inevitable byproduct of living. Nature is better than most engineers - it is 98 or 99% efficient, but as you get older the mitochondria are putting out more oxidants. It is like an old car engine that has less efficiency and more black smoke. ... The argument is that throughout all of evolution, animals were running out of one micronutrient or another ... Animals are running out of magnesium or iron. What does nature want to do when you are running out of magnesium? It cuts out any metabolism that is long-term. DNA damage shows up as cancer five years down the road? The hell with it. Your adaptive immunity leads to dying of a more severe infection five years down the road? The hell with it. ... Basically you are paring down to what is vital so you can reproduce a little bit. That's what nature cares about. That is the argument: I call it triage [and] we are in the middle of trying to test it in people. The pathology is all insidious - it is the very things that happen with aging. DNA damage goes up with aging, your adaptive immunity goes out with aging, your mitochondria put out more oxygen radicals with aging, and that is what is accelerated by micronutrient deficiency."
The Novel Paradigm of Longevity Science (October 01 2008)
Over at Future Current, one of the presentations from Aging 2008: "What can each of us do to advance a new paradigm for health promotion and disease prevention in the 21st century that makes as its central tenet the slowing of aging? Recently, the board of directors of [the Alliance for Aging Research] committed to an aggressive effort to speak out for longevity science, which I think is a more elegant way of saying biogerontology, in order to hasten the social benefits extending healthy aging, a goal that we have referred to as 'pursuing the longevity dividend.' Now, the members of my board are not naive. They know very well that longevity science continues to be a tough sell. Let's face it, call it by any name, the quest for significantly extended lifespan has an image problem. ... Most established scientific leaders have been brought up to believe that aging is not only unchangeable, but not even very interesting. Now let's move to lay people. Most of them think there is not anything you can do about aging. ... They believe that even if you could, it would be a social and an economic catastrophe. Too many sick, old people sitting around, not pulling their weight. Even if people believed there could be some scientific breakthrough that would make it possible to extend the healthy years of life, many will set themselves up in opposition because it sounds unnatural or upsetting to social norms or religious beliefs. ... What will it take to overcome negative assumptions among the public?"
Life is the Road to Utopia, If You Can Stay On It (September 30 2008)
From JET, a Nick Bostrom fiction in the spirit of the Fable of the Dragon Tyrant: "Your body is a deathtrap. This vital machine and mortal vehicle, unless it jams first or crashes, is sure to rust anon. You are lucky to get seven decades of mobility; eight if you be fortune's darling. That is not sufficient to get started in a serious way, much less to complete the journey. Maturity of the soul takes longer. Why, even a tree-life takes longer. Death is not one but a multitude of assassins. Do you not see them? They are coming at you from every angle. Take aim at the causes of early death - infection, violence, malnutrition, heart attack, cancer. Turn your biggest gun on aging, and fire. You must seize the biochemical processes in your body in order to vanquish, by and by, illness and senescence. In time, you will discover ways to move your mind to more durable media. Then continue to improve the system, so that the risk of death and disease continues to decline. Any death prior to the heat death of the universe is premature if your life is good. ... One day you or your children should have a secure home. Research, build, redouble your effort!" The road to Utopia is to continue to live well - which, as Bostrom notes, will require great labor devoted to new medical technologies of engineered longevity.
Aubrey de Grey in JET (September 30 2008)
Here's an essay from Aubrey de Grey in one of the recent issues of the Journal of Evolution and Technology: "A pervasive reaction to the idea of extreme or indefinite postponement of human aging - one heard from many professional bioethicists and also from a high proportion of the general public - is that aging differs morally from other causes of debilitation and death in a manner that exempts us from the duty to combat it that we perceive as so self-evident in respect of those other causes. Precisely what characteristic of aging underpins this alleged distinction? I argue here that it is in fact a false distinction, perpetuated only by unwarranted psychological forces posing as philosophical arguments. ... There are many conspicuous issues regarding which contemporary Western society generally takes a different moral view than it did a century or two ago. Slavery, universal suffrage and homosexuality constitute a representative selection. In all these cases, the view that originally prevailed was overturned because the arguments for the status quo were eventually seen to come down to no more than a fear of the unknown, a faith in the 'natural order' and other similarly unrooted emotions."
Axolotl Biochemistry as a Goal to Aim For (September 29 2008)
It is plausible that mechanisms of unlimited tissue regeneration will be learned from lesser species and then ported to humans: "Urodele amphibians such as the axolotl are the champions of tissue regeneration amongst vertebrates. These animals have mastered the ability to repair and replace most of their tissues following damage or amputation even well into adulthood. In fact it seems that the ability of these organisms to regenerate perfectly is not affected by their age. In addition to being able to regenerate, these animals display a remarkable resistance to cancer. They therefore represent a unique model organism to study regeneration and cancer resistance in vertebrates. The need for this research is even more pressing at the dawn of the 21st century as we are faced with an ever aging world population which has to deal with an increase in organ failure and cancer incidence. ... studying tissue regeneration in salamanders could yield significant knowledge to help regenerative medicine achieve the desired goal of allowing humans to repair and regenerate some of their own tissues as they age."
Mechanisms of Osteoarthritis (September 29 2008)
Researchers continue to learn more about the underlying biochemistry of common age-related conditions: "Until relatively recently, osteoarthritis was believed to be due solely to wear and tear, and an inevitable part of aging. Recent studies have revealed, however, that specific biochemical changes contribute to the disease, changes that might be reversed by precision-designed drugs. Our study provides the first solid proof that some of those changes are related to pain processing, and suggests the mechanisms behind the effect ... the study revealed that pain signals originating in arthritic joints, and the biochemical processing of those signals as they reach the spinal cord, worsen and expand arthritis. In addition, researchers found that nerve pathways carrying pain signals transfer inflammation from arthritic joints to the spine and back again, causing disease at both ends. ... We believe this to be a vitally important process contributing to orthopaedic and neurological diseases in which inflammation is a factor."