Longevity Meme Newsletter, December 15 2008

December 15 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.



- New Methuselah Foundation Website and Newsletter
- Cryonics and Bioethicist Humbug
- Confirming the Important of Autophagy to Longevity
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


The Methuselah Foundation's newly redesigned website is quite impressive:


Furthermore, the latest Foundation newsletter is out, including a progress report on Methuselah Foundation Undergraduate Research Initiative (MFURI), and an interesting overview of anti-cancer OncoSENS and telomere research:


"Cancer is one of the leading causes of death and thus one of the key targets of SENS. Our approach aims to tackle cancer by making it impossible for tumor cells to become immortal, rendering them harmless. Telomeres, the ends of chromosomes, play a key role in this process; specifically, we want to prevent them from being lengthened - a precondition of cellular immortality. In humans two mechanisms of telomere lengthening exist, of which the telomerase enzyme is the most well known; in my work, I focus on the less understood form called 'alternative lengthening of telomeres' (ALT).

"In the near future, I see OncoSENS taking two main directions; understanding ALT and - at first independently, but later in conjunction with that - providing a proof-of-principle in mice that telomerase-deficient stem cells can be successfully transplanted and largely prevent the emergence of malignant tumors."


I thought I'd share this with you:


"I noticed a press article on cryonics and the Alcor Life Extension Foundation today ... There's the standard humbug from a bioethicist in the middle of the piece, sticking with the party line of pulling nonsense objections from thin air in response to every endeavor in medicine. If they couldn't at least make the pretense of finding fault, they wouldn't have a job, after all. It's just a pity that bioethicists aren't engaged in more useful work, such as actually getting something accomplished ... You can go through life making up dumb reasons not to forge ahead, or you can forge ahead. I know which approach I prefer."


I nice advance in mitochondrial research was brought to my attention this last week. It offers a far firmer confirmation that autophagy - the process by which mitochondria are recycled before they become damaged enough to cause issues - is important to the enhanced healthy longevity provided by calorie restriction:


"Mitochondria are central to many theories of aging because they produce damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS) as a by-product of normal function. Over time, ROS can degrade mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), interfering with cellular energy production. The cell's strategy for dealing with this damage is to recycle its mitochondria on a regular basis. ... The main result of this paper is that calorie restriction makes mitochondria turn over a substantial 35% faster, at least in mouse liver. This provides another explanation for the recent finding that [calorie restriction] protects mtDNA from age-related damage."

You can find a more detailed explanation of present theories on how mitochondrial DNA damage contributes to aging back in the Fight Aging! archives:



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/

Notes on the 4th Terasem Movement Colloquium (December 12 2008)
You find a lot of interesting speculation on the future intersection of law and cryonics in this lengthy report from Accelerating Future: "this is a legally focused gathering, and addresses legal issues related to cryonics patients, cyborgs, artificial biological intelligent beings, enhanced human beings, and artificial intelligences. ... Martine invites the first speaker, John Didon, to the podium. He has contributed more than any other attorney to the rights of people in biostasis. As many of you may know, people in biostasis are sometimes at risk of their rights being denied, treated as objects rather than the people they are. John points out that there is no legal status of suspended persons, so any discussion of such is merely (unfortunately) of ideas. Historically, people have tried to do things like will money to themselves for revival after biostasis, and these efforts have run into trouble with family members. John quotes William Goldman: 'Nobody knows anything'. Law is based on precedent, which is both a blessing and a curse. Because cryonic suspension is so new, there is little precedent, but we have to try to shape the law by being there first. He will present four arguments to support shaping the law in favor of persons upon their suspension." From where I stand, law is far less important than incentives - worry about arranging the incentives first, because incentives shape laws and the way people interact with those laws. Potential material gain beats ink on paper every time.

Gene Therapy Versus Periodontitis and Arthritis (December 12 2008)
Via EurekAlert!: "Using gene therapy, [researchers] found a way to help certain cells using an inactivated virus to produce more of a naturally-produced molecule soluble TNF receptor. This factor is under-produced in patients with periodontitis. The molecule delivered by gene therapy works like a sponge to sop up excessive levels of tumor necrosis factor, a molecule known to worsen inflammatory bone destruction in patients afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis, joint deterioration and periodontitis. ... Targeted Genetics released human trial results that showed the same gene therapy approach [had] positive affects in human patients with rheumatoid arthritis ... The company tested 127 human subjects and showed a 30 percent improvement in pain relief, and gain of function, among other enhancements using the gene treatment. ... The gene also delivers quite a bit of genetic bang for the buck. The periodontal tissues were spared from destruction by more than 60-80 percent with the use of gene therapy. ... If you deliver the gene into the target cells once, it keeps producing in the cells for a very long period of time or potentially for the life of the patient. This therapy is basically a single administration, but it could have potentially life-long treatment effects in patients who are at risk for severe disease activity."

Manipulating Heart Cells Into Regeneration (December 11 2008)
Via EurekAlert!: "Up until today scientists assumed that the adult heart is unable to regenerate. Now, researchers and cardiologists [have] been able to show that this dogma no longer holds true. [They] were able to show that the body`s own heart muscle stem cells do generate new tissue and improve the pumping function of the heart considerably in an adult organism, when they suppress the activity of a gene regulator known as beta-catenin [which] plays an important role in the development of the heart in embyros. [Researchers] could now show that beta-catenin is also important for the regeneration of the adult heart. They suppressed this factor in the nucleus of the heart cells in mice. This way they activated heart precursor cells (stem cells) to turn on the regeneration of heart in adult mice. Four weeks after blocking beta-catenin, the pumping function of the heart of the animals had improved and the mice survived an infarction much better than those animals with a functioning beta-catenin gene."

New Methuselah Foundation Website Launches (December 11 2008)
The long awaited redesign of the Methuselah Foundation website has lauched - and very impressive it is too. "We are very excited to announce a new chapter in the future of the Methuselah Foundation, and in our collective efforts to fight aging. Today we launched a new website, MFoundation.org, that will serve as a platform for the groundbreaking research and ideas generated from the Methuselah Foundation. Visitors to MFoundation.org will be able to interact with the Foundation's pioneering researchers, and learn about the work they are doing to better understand and reduce the degenerative effects of aging. In other Methuselah Foundation news, we are announcing the creation of the 300 Monument, a monument dedicated to our visionary donors who are supporting, and who will continue to support the Methuselah Foundation's fight for longer, healthier human lifespans. For $1,000 a year, for 25 years, which amounts to $85 a month or $2.75 a day, committed donors will be immortalized on the monument. We are at a critical juncture in our fundraising efforts. We thank you for your continued support, and encourage you to explore our dynamic new website and our vision for the 300 Monument."

CR Mimetics Are Not CR (December 10 2008)
By way of a reminder that there's still a world of difference between calorie restriction (CR) and a CR mimetic drug that reproduces some of the same observed biochemical changes: "resveratrol may produce calorie restriction-like effects on metabolic and longevity endpoints in mice. In this study, we sought to determine whether resveratrol treatment elicited other hallmark changes associated with calorie restriction, namely bradycardia and decreased body temperature. We found that during short-term treatment, wild-type mice on a calorie-restricted diet experienced significant decreases in both heart rate and body temperature after only 1 day whereas those receiving resveratrol exhibited no such change after 1 [week]. We also used [obese] mice to study the effects of long-term treatment because previous studies had indicated the therapeutic value of resveratrol against the linked morbidities of obesity and diabetes. After 12 [weeks], resveratrol treatment had produced no changes in either heart rate or body temperature. Strikingly, and in contrast to previous findings, we found that resveratrol-treated mice had significantly reduced endurance in a treadmill test. ... we conclude that the bradycardia and hypothermia associated with calorie restriction occur through mechanisms unaffected by the actions of resveratrol."

Another Approach to Restoring Hair Cells (December 10 2008)
Researchers are exploring a range of options to restore the hair cells of the ear that are lost with age, leading to deafness: "Damage to hair cells in the inner ear due to ageing and overstimulation is a major cause of deafness, affecting 10% of the worldwide population. The cell loss is irreversible because the cells have a limited capacity to regenerate. However, a new study suggests that the ependymal layer of the lateral ventricle of the brain contains stem cells which share characteristics with inner ear hair cells and which have the potential to reproduce. According to the scientists, these cells could potentially be transplanted from a person's brain into their ear, where they would undergo a functional switch to enable them to replace the damaged ones. ... The authors concluded that transplanted cells could alter their functions to work as inner ear hair cells and thus restore hearing. They suggested their findings on the flexible function of certain cells could also be extended to offer treatment for other problems affecting the nervous system."

Hourglass VI (December 09 2008)
The sixth edition of the Hourglass blog carnival on aging and longevity science is up at Ouroboros. One of the linked posts is a series of thoughts on the way in which we humans cut ourselves short by discounting the future: "The best example of human’s irrational dealing with the future is what is called hyperbolic discounting (also called: temporal discounting, or future discounting). Hyperbolic discounting is the human preference for small immediate reward over larger future payoffs. The further the time in the future of the reward the greater the discounting ... Humans are generally bad at delaying rewards and hence we too easily take the immediate smaller reward rather than delaying our immediate gratification for a greater reward in the future. ... I propose here that unless humans soon become better at thinking about the future - and not discounting it so much - we might not be able to make the changes we need for a better world and society. ... The same could be said about longevity research - if we can not imagine ourselves living longer and healthier lives - and not imagine it as only happening to a 'stranger' we [are] unlikely as a society to invest in this imagined future."

Another Survey on Attitudes to Longevity Science (December 09 2008)
Australian universities seem to be turning out a fair few surveys on attitudes to longevity science. Here is another: "Some researchers in the field of ageing claim that significant extension of the human lifespan will be possible in the near future. While many of these researchers have assumed that the community will welcome this technology, there has been very little research on community attitudes to life extension. This paper presents the results of an in-depth qualitative study of community attitudes to life extension across age groups and religious boundaries. There were 57 individual interviews, and 8 focus groups (totalling 72 focus group participants) conducted with community members in Brisbane, Australia. Community attitudes to life extension were more varied and complex than have been assumed by some biogerontologists and bioethicists. While some participants would welcome the opportunity to extend their lives others would not even entertain the possibility. This paper details these differences of opinion and reveals contrasting positions that reflect individualism or social concern among community members. The findings also highlight the relationship between Christianity, in particular belief in an afterlife, and attitudes to life extension technology." Which is much what you'd expect.

Newsweek on Mainstream Longevity Science (December 08 2008)
Newsweek has a general interest article up online on the topic of mainstream longevity science: projects aimed at the hard target of metabolic manipulation to slow aging. "Since the days of Ponce de Leon, if not before, people have been seeking the elusive Fountain of Youth. Until recently, such pursuits were the realm of quacks and charlatans. And there are still plenty of snake-oil salesmen out there on the Internet and in so-called anti-aging clinics, hawking everything from longevity-bestowing Ecuadoran waters (which are probably harmless) to growth hormones (which could be downright dangerous for adults). But serious scientists are now bringing respectability to the field, unraveling the secrets of aging on a cellular level and looking for ways to slow it down. And while the science is still young (so to speak), legitimate longevity-boosting treatments could be available in 10 to 15 years - although the gains would be [modest]. ... Some critics of the scientific quest for longevity say it's God's will that we should die when our time comes. But in the past century, a clean water supply, antibiotics, vaccines and improved medical care have boosted life expectancy at birth by roughly 50 percent in the United States - from 48 for men and 51 for women in 1900 to 75 for men and 80 for women today. No one seems to object to that."

A Viral Cause for Alzheimer's? (December 08 2008)
This release via EurekAlert! is very compelling - but how does it fit in with the good evidence that Alzheimer's is a form of diabetes? "The virus behind cold sores is a major cause of the insoluble protein plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer's disease [AD] sufferers ... [researchers] investigated the role of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) in AD ... Most people are infected with this virus, which then remains life-long in the peripheral nervous system ... HSV1 DNA is located very specifically in amyloid plaques: 90% of plaques in Alzheimer's disease sufferers' brains contain HSV1 DNA, and most of the viral DNA is located within amyloid plaques. The team had previously shown that HSV1 infection of nerve-type cells induces deposition of the main component, beta amyloid, of amyloid plaques. Together, these findings strongly implicate HSV1 as a major factor in the formation of amyloid deposits and plaques, abnormalities thought by many in the field to be major contributors to Alzheimer's disease."



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