LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
January 26 2009
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.
- Avoid Chronic Inflammation
- Misconceptions About Cryonics
- Immortality 2.0
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines
AVOID CHRONIC INFLAMMATION
Chronic inflammation is a potent source of biochemical damage that contributes to age-related disease. A reminder of the way in which that works and what can be done:
"As I've noted in the past, the best short term way of evading chronic inflammation, and thereby increasing your chances to living more healthy years, is to avoid carrying excess visceral fat. But that only gets you so far: eventually even the healthiest immune system in the healthiest body starts to fall into a permanent condition of chronic inflammation called inflammaging. Evolution didn't produce a system that can be used for as long as we modern humans would like."
"So when I say 'avoid chronic inflammation' I'm not really talking about sane lifestyle choices, although that's very necessary as well. I really mean 'do what you can to help advance medical research into repairing our aged immune systems.' As time goes by, you'll find that the greatest determinant of your health and longevity is medical technology that can repair the damage of aging. While we're healthy and active, we should do what we can to advance that medical research; it'll pay off later."
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT CRYONICS
Alcor does a good job at their website clearing up the major myths and answering questions about cryonics, the practice of low-temperature, ice-free storage of the body and brain after clinical death, but misconceptions and assumptions remain rife. Some are noteworthy for the way in which they contribute to self-sabotage amongst those who intend to sign up for cryopreservation but never quite get to it:
"At the time a person really needs cryonics, he may no longer be able to communicate those desires, lack funding to make arrangements, or encounter hostile relatives. A more subtle variant concerns the person who expects that aging will be solved before cryonics will be necessary. This person may or may not be right, but such optimism may not make him more immune to accidents than other people."
I point out a FUTURIST magazine article on transhumanism, including radical life extension advocates, in Silicon Valley in a recent Fight Aging! post:
"It's a neutral piece, as you might be able to tell - the author is clearly one of those who remain to be convinced that change is afoot, healthy longevity is good, and the biotechnology revolution will take us all to far places. The movement for engineered longevity is, however, a movement, and it's steadily growing. That growth means an increase in advocacy, fundraising, funded research, and other metrics of success."
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/
Indy Longevity Mutation Works Through Mitochondria (January 23 2009)
Another longevity mutation is shown to work by reducing the all-important emmission of free radicals from the mitochondria: "first discovered in 2000 [a] mutation in the Indy ('I'm Not Dead Yet') gene [extends] the life span of fruit flies .. Subsequent studies of the Indy flies have led to the new finding that a mechanism in those genetically altered fruit flies appears to reduce significantly the production of free radicals, a cellular byproduct that can contribute to the aging process. This intervention takes place with few or no side effects on the quality of life for the fruit fly. The discovery could lead to the development of new anti-aging treatments. ... There are very few, if any, interventions that are known to dramatically extend healthy lifespan. Understanding how [the] Indy mutation alters the metabolic state of the fruit fly would allow someone to come up with pharmacological interventions that could mimic it and give you the benefit of genetic manipulation without having to do genetics."
Geron Going to Trials With Stem Cell Therapy (January 23 2009)
As the New York Times reports, Geron's embryonic stem cell therapy for spinal injuries is soon entering phase I human trials. Make what you will of timing, and consider that in the absence of the FDA this would already be in clinics: "The clearance of the clinical trial - of a treatment for spinal cord injury - is to be announced Friday ... Geron's trial will involve 8 to 10 people with severe spinal cord injuries. The cells will be injected into the spinal cord at the injury site 7 to 14 days after the injury occurs, because there is evidence the therapy will not work for much older injuries. ... Geron's therapy involves using various growth factors to turn embryonic stem cells into precursors of neural support cells called oligodendrocytes, which are then injected into the spinal cord at the site of the injury. The hope is that the injected cells will help repair the insulation, known as myelin, around nerve cells, restoring the ability of some nerve cells to carry signals. There is also some hope that growth factors produced by the injected cells will spur damaged nerve cells to regenerate." By way of a reminder, we should all be interested in technnologies for myelin repair, given the evidence for a general decline in myelin during aging.
Mission: Regeneration (January 22 2009)
An article from headway looks at some of the work presently taking place in the field of regenerative medicine: "Understanding the regeneration of damaged nerves - and eventually controlling where and when it occurs - could have a large impact on the kind of recovery trauma patients achieve. Walking may be the ultimate goal, but for many patients, regaining bladder function or abolishing neuropathic pain is an immediate priority. To this end, [a team] is identifying the genes responsible for regenerating the nerve's long, branch-like body. Their work begins in organisms like Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster - tiny worms and fruit flies that are hugely valuable to genetics research. Once a gene has been identified in a fruit fly or worm, scientists can search a database to find its vertebrate homologue, and then test it and manipulate it in a mouse or other animal. ... Once we have used genetics to identify genes that control nerve regeneration, we can develop animal models to find drugs that will mimic the genes in the pathway, or up-regulate their expression."
Rebuilding Nerves With Viruses (January 22 2009)
From the Technology Review: "Researchers working on tissue engineering hope to eventually be able to use a patient's own cells to grow replacement tissue for damaged hearts, livers, and nerves. But mimicking the structure and function of the body's tissue has proved difficult. Matrices of supportive, fibrous proteins sustain the cells of the heart, lungs, and other tissues in the body. These scaffolds provide both structural support and chemical signals that enable an organ or nerve tissue to function properly. ... Viruses that mimic supportive nerve tissue may someday help regenerate injured spinal cords. While other tissue-engineering materials must be synthesized and shaped in the lab, genetically engineered viruses have the advantage of being self-replicating and self-assembling. They can be designed to express cell-friendly proteins on their surfaces and, with a little coaxing, be made into complex tissuelike structures. Preliminary studies show that scaffolds made using a type of virus called a bacteriophage (or phage) that infects bacteria but cannot invade animal cells can support the growth and organization of nerve cells."
Killing Cancer Stem Cells With Viruses (January 21 2009)
Researchers are starting to build targeted therapies for what are believed to be characteristic cancer stem cell populations. From EurekAlert!: "After identifying an apparent population of cancer stem cells for neuroblastoma, researchers successfully used a reprogrammed herpes virus to block tumor formation in mice by targeting and killing the cells. ... the study [adds] to a growing body of evidence suggesting early stage cancer precursor cells with stem-cell-like properties may explain how some cancers form, are treatment resistant and prone to relapse. The study also underscores the increasing potential of targeted biological therapies ... The main finding of our study is that pediatric neuroblastomas seem to have a population of cells with stem-cell characteristics that we may need to target for therapy ... In the next research phase, the team will try to verify results in the current study by seeing if they can detect the presence of cancer stem cells in primary neuroblastoma tumor cells from patients."
Beyond Stem Cells (January 21 2009)
A fascinating article: "stem cells are an imprecise physiological system to directly communicate to cellular networks of a host organism. The future of stem cell research will not necessarily be in the transplantation of stem cells to a specific pathogenic tissue region, but rather in reeducating or reprogramming that particular cellular network. Each organism has an exacting molecular blue print, which as a function of epigenetics, is either enhanced or mollified through its interfacement with a particular environmental milieu. ... stem cell transplantation is not a precise strategy for amelioratively reprogramming cellular networks, which are compromised. In most instances, the stem cells, which have been transplanted are only inducing a minimum benefit in terms of their medicinal efficacy. ... stem cell transplantation is not a therapeutic pantheon, but rather a way to comprehend how to modify a tissue's proteomics or physiological processes. Clinical medicine in the future will not involve providing imprecise cellular substrates, which vaguely impact genetic transcription and translation or millions of stem cells to a pathophysiologic tissue. ... medical therapies will [instead] be a precise utilization of peptides which can ardently reprogram an overall cellular system."
Hourglass VII Blog Carnival (January 20 2009)
The latest Hourglass blog carnival is up, another look at the biology of aging: "Alex Palazzo over at The Daily Transcript gives us a very interesting introduction into the cell polarity theory of aging. With all the current interest in stem cells this theory could get plenty of attention and research, which will help provide additional information regarding this theory. .... Chris Patil from Ouroboros informs us about the interesting bridge between calorie restriction, DNA damage, and transcriptional deregulation in aging. It is an intriguing story about how Sirt1 (which increases with calorie restriction), among its many other jobs, both depresses transcription and also when required goes off to repair broken DNA. ... Mo at Neurophilosophy (great blog name) posts about a subject matter which I think will garner a great deal of attention in the coming years - aging and myelin. The traditional theory of brain aging usually concentrates on the loss of neurons as we age. However, Mo post concentrates of the loss of myelin and how it correlates with the behavioural decline in a number of cognitive measurements. By reading his post you will find out what correlates best with the cognitive decline observed with age - loss of neurons or loss of myelin."
Regenerating Stroke Damage (January 19 2009)
The BBC looks at a clinical trial for Reneuron's foetal-derived stem cell line: "A Glasgow team is to launch a major trial to assess whether stem cells can be used to treat stroke patients ... If it works, as it has done in animal model systems, it may allow new nerve cells to grow or regeneration of existing cells and actual recovery of function in patients who would not otherwise be able to regain function. .... For the high proportion of patients who make an incomplete recovery [you] can reorganise the brain, you can help that reorganisation with physiotherapy but you cannot cause new nerve cells to grow. The hope with stem cell therapy is that by putting in new cells and new tissue that you can further improve on that recovery. ... We have only taken one donation of tissue to make this product. We have a technology that is able to scale up an individual cell into all of the cells that are required to treat thousands of patients. We think this is a major plus in the technology we have and really negates the ethical concerns about the original use of foetal tissue."
A Look at Osiris Therapeutics (January 19 2009)
An interview with the Osiris Therapeutics president is as revealing of the way in which the FDA constrains progress as it is of the work being done. Broadly promising scientific applications are held back for years and squashed down to minor, narrowly approved uses - and everyone involved has to speak as though this is wonderful and the best of all possible worlds lest they are targeted for retribution. It's a sorry state of affairs. From the interview: mesenchymal stem cells or MSCs "do three things: They downregulate inflammation, they work to regenerate the damaged connective tissue, and they prevent scarring or fibrosis. That's the Holy Trinity of the mesenchymal stem cell. It's the natural progression or sequence of how we respond to injury. When we're young, that process works well. Children heal in miraculous ways. Conversely, an elderly person will die of something like a fractured hip. This is because children have 1,000-fold more MSC in their body than adults do. What happens is an adult ends up with a very exaggerated inflammatory response, a weak regenerative response, and a lot of scarring. We can reverse that trend by administering MSC. Because MSCs naturally have a broad range of things they can respond to, our job is to package them as something that will satisfy the FDA."