LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
December 29 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.
- Methuselah Foundation Newsletter
- "Fair Innings" and the Urge to Tear Down the Successful
- Know Your Enemy
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
METHUSELAH FOUNDATION NEWSLETTER
The link to the latest Foundation newsletter was somewhat buried in the depths of last week's Longevity Meme newsletter, so I thought I'd point it out again:
It includes a great overview of OncoSENS, the anti-cancer aspect of the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence:
"FAIR INNINGS" AND THE URGE TO TEAR DOWN THE SUCCESSFUL
The hardwired human urge to fairness at the expense of all else is a dreadful thing when unleashed upon the world. See, for example, the "fair innings" argument for condemning old people to death through refusal of healthcare, the end result of a drive for equality and fairness in a centralized system:
"the fair innings argument [is used to] justify denying people healthcare resources because they have lived longer than the normal life span ... Creating 'equality' by taking from the successful ruins the creation of wealth - very much a non-zero sum game - for all. It takes away the vital incentives and rewards for success. At the end of the process, as demonstrated by all that transpired in the Soviet Union, you are left with the same old inequalities, but now taking place amongst ruins, starvation and disease."
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
A few pieces on shards of the biochemistry of aging for you from the past week of posts at Fight Aging! - knowledge is power.
" Not to sound like a broken record, but the state of the mitochondria inside your cells is very important. The level of damaged suffered by these mitochondria is a determinant of your future health and longevity because of the further damaging processes set in motion by faulty mitochondria. Furthermore, we can point to some known ways to extend longevity - such as calorie restriction - and show that they cause changes in biochemical processes that act to eliminate damaged mitochondria before they cause significant harm or prevent that damage from occuring in the first place."
"When compared to a random selection of folk in their middle ages and younger, centenarians have biochemistries that seem better adapted to long term survival. That makes sense, given that few of those random folk would make it to 100 under the same life circumstances as the centenarians. Hopefully researchers can use the identified differences to make faster progress in longevity science."
"Inflammaging is a term coined to describe one way in which the immune system runs awry with age. Like a malfunctioning thermostat, the level of inflammatory response is consistently too high, leading to damage to aged tissue. ... I noticed a paper today which contains an interesting take on how inflammation leads to damage. It's not just the inflammatory response, per this theory, but also the anti-inflammatory systems evolved to shut off an inflammatory response after it has served its purpose. If inflammation is constantly jammed on, then so is the anti-inflammatory system - based on the hormone cortisol - that is trying to shut it down. So you have at once all the downsides of both a constantly active immune system, and an immune system that is constantly damped down: damage from constant activity yet poor immune response when you do need it to fight off disease."
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/
Another Example of Veterinary Stem Cell Therapies (December 26 2008)
Thanks to less regulation, veterinary medicine is years ahead of human medicine in putting stem cell therapies into practice. There's no sane reason why this should be the case; why do humans suffer needlessly when the technology works and is ready for use? From the Daily Gazette: "Charlie is one of 15 dogs that have undergone stem cell therapy [since] June, and one of 1,000 around the country since May who have been helped by the procedure. Most of the animals were suffering from hip displasia or some other kind of arthritic condition that severly limited their mobility, and in most cases, about 87 percent nationally, the dogs became rejuvenated soon after receiving their injections. ... I understand the science behind it, but it's still amazing to think that we can harvest these cells, inject them into a joint, and a couple of days later we have a dog that is running around and is pain free. It's incredible that it works, and it's incredible that it works so well. ... The general public really isn't aware yet of what's going on. They think all of this work is still in the research stage. Somedays I feel like an evangelist, and I have to continue to get out the word. There are places in the world where they're doing this on humans, not dogs. It works, and it's a dramatic new tool that we can all be pretty excited about."
Corrupting Influences (December 26 2008)
Here is an example of the sort of damage done to research endeavors by the highly dubious business-as-usual practices of the "anti-aging" marketplace. Science is the search for truth and, far more so than reputable fields of business, the anti-aging marketplace is based upon whatever lies you can get away with. That is the prevalent culture there - selling snake oil with hype and glitter, with those who've convinced themselves that their product in fact works doing the best job of salesmanship. When the two meet, trust in scientific progress suffers. That doesn't happen in a dozen other fields of business intimately connected with scientific medical research, so why should it do so here? Is resveratrol junk and nonsense, just like a thousand products that don't do what their sellers promise? Many more people now think so on the back of this news. Is research into calorie restriction biology worth funding? Many more people now think not, putting it in the same category as cremes from Revlon and feel-good supplements from fly by night providers. The anti-aging marketplace is a noxious cloud hanging about the scientific quest for healthy life extension. The sooner it either goes away or reforms itself the better.
Catalase-Based Longevity Not Replicated In Mice (December 25 2008)
Never a straight road in the life sciences. The extension of mouse life span by genetic modification to target the antioxidant catalase to the mitochondria is a result I've considered important for years, but another study finds no benefit to life span: "We evaluated the effect of overexpressing antioxidant enzymes on the lifespans of transgenic mice that overexpress CuZnSOD, catalase, or combinations of either CuZnSOD and catalase or CuZnSOD and MnSOD. Our results show that the overexpression of these major antioxidant enzymes, which are known to scavenge superoxide and hydrogen peroxide in the cytosolic and mitochondrial compartments, is insufficient to extend lifespan in mice." So something more complex is going on here; back to square one, and more studies to try and understand how it is that earlier results of extended healthy life were in fact produced.
A Different View of Alzheimer's and Blood Flow (December 25 2008)
Researchers how produced evidence suggesting that reduced blood flow to the brain prevents amyloid beta from being carried away, thereby worsening the progression of Alzheimer's - which explains why exercise seems to help resist this age-related condition. Here is a different view of why reduced blood flow is bad, and a reminder that Alzheimer's a complex, many-faceted degeneration: "when the brain doesn't get enough sugar glucose - as might occur when cardiovascular disease restricts blood flow in arteries to the brain - a process is launched that ultimately produces the sticky clumps of protein that appear to be a cause of Alzheimer's. [Researchers] discovered a key brain protein is altered when the brain has a deficient supply of energy. The altered protein, called elF2alpha, increases the production of an enzyme that, in turn, flips a switch to produce the sticky protein clumps. ... What we are talking about here is a slow, insidious process over many years where people have a low level of cardiovascular disease or atherosclerosis in the brain. It's so mild, they don't even notice it, but it has an effect over time because it's producing a chronic reduction in the blood flow."
Towards a Way to Block Metastasis (December 24 2008)
Researchers are making progress towards identifying specific mechanisms that cause metastasis in cancer, and thereby find ways to shut it down, preventing the spread of cancer in the body and giving more time for the original tumor to be destroyed. From ScienceDaily: "Essential to our understanding of how metastasis develops is identification of the molecules, and characterisation of the mechanisms that regulate cell motility. Hitherto, these mechanisms have been poorly understood. ... [researchers have now] shown not only that the enzyme phospholipase C-gamma-1 (PLC-gamma-1) plays a crucial role in metastasis formation, but that down regulation of PLC-gamma-1 expression is able to revert metastasis progression. ... This is an exciting discovery. He has shown that turning off this molecule prevents metastasis. The simple fact is that if you stop metastasis, you stop cancer from killing people. We now need to focus on developing drugs that can block PLC-gamma-1."
Biomedical Remediation Versus Aging (December 24 2008)
The Biodesign Institute has posted a good article and video on biomedical remediation, a search for bacterial enzymes to break down damaging waste biochemicals that contribute to aging by damaging the operation of our cells: "The same principles that a Biodesign Institute research team has successfully applied to remove harmful contaminants from the environment may one day allow people to clean up the gunk from their bodies - and reverse the effects of aging. The Biodesign Institute, along with partner, the Methuselah Foundation, is working to vanquish age-related disease by making old cells feel younger. ... The mainstream approach to curing aging diseases is to delay them a little bit, which is great for pharmaceutical sales, but not so good for fixing people. What's different about the Methuselah Foundation is that their approach is to directly repair the damage that the passage of time does to our bodies and eventually causes disease."
More Control Over Health Than You Think (December 23 2008)
Most people have far more control over their health than they think they do or take advantage of. Take metabolic syndrome, for example, a precursor to diabetes and all sorts of other common age-related degenerations linked to excess visceral fat. The evidence suggests that metabolic syndrome is just another name for "not exercising and getting fat" - a state of affairs that can be remedied. For example: researchers examined "the effects of a 24-week lifestyle intervention prescribed by family doctors on carotid artery stiffness in metabolic syndrome (MS) subjects with pre-hypertension and/or pre-diabetes. ... Sixty-three middle-aged and older subjects with pre-hypertension and/or pre-diabetes were divided into subjects without MS (MS-) and with MS (MS+). ... Family doctors prescribed an individually customized lifestyle prescription for aerobic exercise and Mediterranean-style diet. ... Carotid artery distensibility significantly increased in MS+ following the 24 weeks of intervention compared with baseline. Similarly, beta stiffness index decreased in MS+ following the 24 weeks of intervention. Following the intervention, waist circumference, BP and fasting glucose levels reduced in MS+, and 13 MS+ subjects were free from MS." Why let yourself become run down and damaged when you can prevent that from happening?
Creating Artificial Bone Marrow (December 23 2008)
From ScienceDaily: "This is the first successful artificial bone marrow. It has two of the essential functions of bone marrow. It can replicate blood stem cells and produce B cells. The latter are the key immune cells producing antibodies that are important to fighting many diseases ... Bone marrow is a complicated organ to replicate ... Vital to the success of this new development is the three-dimensional scaffold on which the artificial marrow grows. This lattice had to have a high number of precisely-sized pores to stimulate cellular interaction. The scaffolds are made out of a transparent polymer that nutrients can easily pass through. To create the scaffolds, scientists molded the polymer with tiny spheres ordered like billiard balls. Then, they dissolved the spheres to leave the perfect geometry of pores in the scaffold. The scaffolds were then seeded with bone marrow stromal cells and osteoblasts, another type of bone marrow cell."
Alzheimer's and Blood Flow (December 22 2008)
From ScienceDaily, indicators as to why it is that exercise improves resistance to Alzheimer's - by increasing blood flow to the brain: "there's a great deal of evidence to suggest that Alzheimer's disease is a problem having much to do with the vascular plumbing. ... . It's not simply that reduced blood supply hurts brain cells by causing a shortage of oxygen and other nutrients. Rather, deterioration of blood flow seems to gum up the brain's ability to remove toxic amyloid beta. Normally, amyloid is picked up efficiently by blood vessels that then whisk the toxic trash away. But in Alzheimer's disease, the system no longer is able to keep up with the body's production of the substance. The molecular trash accumulates, and [researchers] believe the buildup kills brain cells." The researchers here show that two proteins linked to the cardiovascular system change both blood flow and the ability to clear amyloid beta. It's worth remembering that Alzheimer's is a multifaceted, complicated condition with numerous contributing issues: see for example the convincing evidence for involvement of degeneration in the choroid plexus, diabetes-like lifestyle conditions, a herpes simplex virus, and so forth.
A Look at the Buck Institute (December 22 2008)
The Sacramento Bee is running an article on the Buck Institute for Age Research. It's representatives of the mainstream aging research approach to talking about their work: slowly, slowly, and never any prospects for large gains in healthy longevity. Which is probably the case given their approach to the problem of aging, to change our hugely complex metabolic processes and genetic programming so as to slow down the rate at which damage accumulates. As usual, I'm much more interested in researchers who advocate keeping the metabolism we have, developing near-term ways to repair the biochemical damage we know a great deal about, and aim to reverse aging rather than just slow it down. The under the hood battle over how the research community moves forward is the most important scientific debate of our time, for it will determine how long we can live in good health.