Longevity Meme Newsletter, July 20 2009

July 20 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.



- The Campaign for Aging Research
- Thoughts From Aubrey de Grey
- The Pharmaceutical Industry and Aging
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


Allow me to direct your attention to a recently formed advocacy and research fundraising group, the Campaign for Aging Research (CAR). Their viewpoint on the necessary science is informed by the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), and their staff take a very modern approach to online outreach:


"I don't know any of the folk involved in CAR, and I view this is a welcome sign. Progress in growing the advocacy community is measured, from any one personal perspective, by the number of people who come seemingly out of the blue to get things done. I'm all for more of that. The CAR message could use a little polish, but you can't fault the volunteers' earnest intent - and that comes shining through."

All in all, more fundraising for SENS research is a very good thing, and the more people working on it the better the long-term outlook. So visit the Campaign for Aging Research website via the link below, and if you like what they're doing then consider offering a helping hand:



Biomedical gerontologist and engineered longevity advocate Aubrey de Grey is speaking more in public these days. Some thoughts on why in these posts:


"In recent years, though resistance undoubtedly still festers within mainstream biogerontology, great progress has occurred in broadening the appreciation that applying regenerative interventions to aging may prove to be far more effective, far sooner, that the traditional approach of attempting to 'clean up metabolism' and prevent its eventual pathogenic side effects from occurring in the first place. Corresponding progress in enlightening people that defeating aging would be a good idea, however, has been quite considerably slower; hence my choice to devote an ever-greater proportion of my time - and of the pages of this journal - to that part of the equation."


"Biogerontology, arguably alone among the biological sciences [is] a field being transformed from a basic science into an applied, translational one as a result of advances made with other goals (mostly in regenerative medicine), and thus made predominantly by non-biogerontologists. Biogerontologists are thus faced with the particularly painful dilemma of either defending the field against the encroachment of these other specialities of which they are not the leading experts, or embracing the modernisation of their discipline at what may be at least short-term risk to their careers. Unfortunately, the former option is seductively easy, but it delays the advent of effective therapies against aging and thus potentially costs huge numbers of lives."


"Our research is not funded by any institutions (such as NIH), only by philanthropy. Its rate is massively constrained by insufficient funding: we could certainly spend 50 times what we currently have before we came close to running out of important projects to support."

When constraints on progress are primarily financial rather than technical, and when you have interested researchers and projects ready to go, then it's time to direct more effort towards persuading a broader audience that your goals are worthwhile and plausible.


To understand the very important issue of regulatory stasis and unnecessary imposed costs that hold back medical development in the US today, you have to listen to people who are enmeshed in the system or part of the problem. To this end, the latest SAGE Crossroads podcasts are interviews with spokespeople for the pharmaceutical industry:


"The big pharmaceutical companies are like any big company in a market dominated by government regulation rather than competition. In public they have to play the game in which you say that regulation is wonderful, and in private you use the system of regulation to make it very hard for new and disruptive competitors (meaning people who are striving to better serve customers and develop better products) to change your market in ways that inconvenience your profit margin. Progress is stifled. The rest of us have to suffer, sigh, and mentally shift all public representatives of companies in that market into the 'politician, assume everything said is a self-serving lie' bucket.

"I hope I'm not the only one who sees nothing but madness and waste in a system of development in which you have to spend years and countless dollars just to get permission to build better medical technology. The Soviet method of development - and look how well that worked! - is alive and well in the US medical regulatory establishment. It would be funny if we weren't all going to suffer greatly because of it."

Read the podcast transcripts with caution, but be educated by doing so. For more on this topic, and the way in which regulatory bodies like the FDA destroy or delay almost all potential new medical technologies, you might look 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!




Nanoparticles as Antioxidants (July 17 2009)
The evidence to date suggests that antioxidants are only useful if specifically targeted - for example to the mitochondria, or to diseased cells. Here, RedOrbit looks at the prospects for targeted nanoparticles in the role of antioxidant: researchers have "engineered nanoparticles of cerium oxide (CeO2), a material long used in ceramics, catalysts, and fuel cells. The novel nanocrystalline form is non-toxic and biocompatible - ideal for medical applications. Since then, the researchers found that cerium oxide nanoparticles have two additional medical benefits: they behave like an antioxidant, protecting cells from oxidative stress, and they can be fine-tuned to potentially deliver medical treatments directly into cells. ... [Researchers] engineered special cerium oxide nanoparticles, which they call nanoceria, for tailored biomedical applications. ... the researchers used mice whose eyes have retinal defects similar to those found in patients with age-related macular degeneration. They treated some of the mice with nanoceria and then compared the number of lesions that occurred in their retinas. The researchers' results [indicate] that the nanoceria prevented about 85 percent of the damage to the retina."

Provoking Stem Cells Into Action (July 17 2009)
From the Technology Review: "Fate Therapeutics, a startup based in La Jolla, CA, aims to harness the body's ability to heal itself by developing drugs that stimulate resident stem cells. Rather than developing cell transplants to replace diseased or damaged tissue, which is the focus of a great deal of stem-cell research, Fate is searching for molecules that can control the behavior of adult stem cells in different parts of the body. ... The human body is full of adult stem cells - small populations of tissue-specific stem cells that are capable only of developing into the cells of their resident tissue, and whose job is to help maintain and repair that tissue. While they lack the flexible fate of embryo-derived stem cells, adult stem cells come in a variety of flavors, including those capable of making liver cells and immune and blood cells, among others. Fate Therapeutics believes that, with a little pharmaceutical prompting, these cells can be nudged to repair tissue and organ systems, or even fight back against cancer."

The Work of Denham Harman (July 16 2009)
h+ Magazine looks back at the origins of the free radical theory of aging: "Harman's work on radiation with experimental animals showed him that the symptoms that appear in the aging process has many things in common with what occurs as the result of massive exposure to radiation - including cancer induction, cell death or necrosis, and tissue changes similar to what is seen in aged animals. He knew from his own research results - and earlier research at other laboratories - that ionizing radiation generated enormous amounts of free radicals, particularly hydroxyl radical and hydrogen radical. ... In 1954, Harman hypothesized that the steady state production of hydroxyl radicals from metabolism and the radicals generated by the copper and iron-containing enzymes found in all cells over the lifetime of an organism was a major contributor to aging - or the actual cause of the aging process itself." Since then, the theory has been refined into the mitochondrial free radical theory of aging, and mitochondria have become a major focus in aging research.

July Newsletter from the Methuselah Foundation (July 16 2009)
The latest newsletter from the Methuselah Foundation is online: "SENS Foundation has announced the exciting program for their fourth annual conference to be held in Cambridge, England from September 3 - 7. SENS4 will include 85 speakers from 18 countries in 22 sessions over 5 days. This important gathering brings together key players to expedite the development of truly effective therapies to postpone and treat human aging by tackling it as an engineering problem. Two of the presenters have a special connection to Methuselah Foundation. Dr. Gabor Forgacs, whose work was featured in our June newsletter, will speak about the organ printing technology he is developing at Organovo, a Methuselah Foundation supported company. Steven Spindler, who currently holds the Mprize for Rejuvenation, will present the topic 'Screening potential longevity therapeutics using rodent lifespan assays,' suggesting and illustrating ways to improve the reliability and interpretability of lifespan studies. ... CEO Mike Kope sums up the SENS Foundation vision, 'The challenge is not small. We are proposing nothing less than a transformation of medicine; away from the increasingly burdensome and unprofitable chase to treat pathologies, and towards a functional - and, for society as a whole, more cost-effective - approach to maintaining and extending individual health.'"

Arguing for Nuclear DNA Damage as a Cause of Aging (July 15 2009)
The role of accumulating nuclear DNA damage in aging is debated, with the majority believing it to be a cause of aging at this time: "This paper presents evidence that damage to nuclear DNA (nDNA) is a direct cause of aging in addition to the effects of nDNA damage on cancer, apoptosis, and cellular senescence. Many studies show significant nDNA damage with age, associated with declining nDNA repair ... Mammalian lifespans correlate with the effectiveness of nDNA repair. The most severe forms of accelerated aging disease in humans are due to nDNA repair defects, and many of these diseases do not exhibit increased cancer incidence. High rates of cellular senescence and apoptosis due to high rates of nDNA damage are apparently the main cause of the elderly phenotype in these diseases. Transgenic mice with high rates of cellular senescence and apoptosis exhibit an elderly phenotype, whereas some strains with low rates of cellular senescence and apoptosis show extended lifespan. Age-associated increases of nDNA damage in the brain may be problematic for rejuvenation because neurons may be difficult to replace and artificial nDNA repair could be difficult."

On Longevity Gurus (July 15 2009)
From the LA Times: "Live a life without frailty and disease, and enjoy lasting youth, both physical and mental. Purveyors of longevity have been cashing in on that promise for centuries -- never mind that not one of the people prescribing a life-extension plan has ever delivered one that worked. ... Longevity gurus share one characteristic. Most are dead. And they all died at about the same age and of the same causes as the rest of the population. ... People think if you simply inject a substance that wanes with age, all will be well again, and it just isn't so ... replacing hormones has been something physicians have been trying for centuries to promote virility, youth and longevity. The concept has proven over and over again to be false, and sometimes detrimental." When engineered longevity arrives, it will arrive from a broad scientific community and a wealth of responsible, well-funded companies. There will be no secrets, no hidden methodologies, and no gurus - it will simply be new medicine, no different in its introduction than the way in which stem cell therapies are presently coming into use.

Damage and Cellular Signaling (July 14 2009)
Our cells talk to one another constantly, and much of the damage of aging involves harmful changes to those signals - cells instructed to behave in ways that cause further detrimental effects. For example: "When cells experiencing DNA damage fail to repair themselves, they send a signal to their neighbors letting them know they're in trouble. The discovery, which shows that a process dubbed the DDR (DNA Damage Response) also controls communication from cell to cell, has implications for both cancer and aging. ... . The discovery of the extracellular signaling mechanism, which sets off an inflammatory response, explains how unsuccessful DNA repair at the cellular level impacts tissues ... With regard to cancer, we found that if there is a mutant and potentially cancerous cell in the vicinity of the damaged cell, the signals from the damaged cell can encourage that mutant cell to behave more aggressively cancerous. With regard to aging, we think the inflammatory signals from damaged cells propagate an aging 'field' whereby damage builds up over time, impacting not only the individual damaged cells, but the function of the tissue itself. ... Damaged cells that survive the activity of the immune system are sending out continuous danger signals to surrounding cells. That constant alarm drives inflammation, which helps drive aging."

The Attraction of Methionine Restriction (July 14 2009)
A surprisingly competent article from the Examiner, barring the normal exaggeration of the difficulties of practicing calorie restriction (it's nowhere near as hard as the press makes it out to be): "With all the scientific data showing the benefits of methionine restriction on longevity in different animal models, is it conceivable to apply this diet in humans? One major disadvantage of caloric restriction is that a high level of non-compliance and a lack of discipline is observed in humans that undergo such a rigorous ordeal. ... On the other hand, an advantage of methionine restricted diets is that studies have shown that in rats fed an ad libitum diets low in methionine achieve significant weight loss and achieve a leaner muscle content suggesting that restricting the quality but not the amount of food may be a key to achieving the anti-aging effects of methionine restriction in humans ... In the end, there is a clear need to perform additional studies to analyze and determine whether the beneficial effects of methionine restriction not only parallels and recapitulates the beneficial effects of caloric restriction but whether converging beneficial mechanisms exists between these two anti-aging intervention therapies." People want to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to the benefits of calorie restriction.

Exercise and Longevity (July 13 2009)
A suprisingly sensible article on the benefits of regular exercise from the LA Times: "You may have heard the advice 'If you exercise, you'll live longer.' The good news - or the bad news, if you hate doing anything more active than downloading iTunes - is that it's true. Research backs this up. ... Most of the negative changes to our bodies over time can be chalked up to two things: normal aging and disease-related aging (that is, changes accelerated by illnesses and conditions such as diabetes and heart disease). Exercise [can] reduce the severity of both types. ... The research leaves no doubt that activity isn't just meant for the younger years. ... Human beings were active animals on the grassy savannas of Africa with high levels of energy expenditure. That's the kind of critter we are. But we're at the point now where we've engineered energy expenditure out of our lives, and that isn't good for us. ... Studies linking exercise to living longer sometimes leave off the important message that being physically active improves the quality of life as well."

On Local Cryonics (July 13 2009)
From Depressed Metabolism: "Real estate is all about location, location, location. Location matters in cryonics as well. The objective of standby and stabilization in cryonics is to limit injury to the brain after pronouncement of legal death. Unfortunately, many cryonics patients have not been stabilized promptly after pronouncement of legal death because the cryonics organization did a poor job of tracking the health condition of its members, was not made aware of the pending death of a member, or the case was one of rapid decline or sudden death. In other cases, the cryonics organization was aware of the critical condition of the patient but was faced with the challenge of providing services in a geographical area where few other cryonics advocates live. ... It should not be surprising, then, that some people who have recognized this problem advocate that cryonics organizations should be local in nature. Not only in the sense of building a strong local community and emergency response system, but also by strictly confining itself to members in that area. A technical criterion to determine the area of coverage for such a cryonics organization is that the distance between the service area of the cryonics facility should not exceed the distance that, in principle, permits stabilization of the patient without loss neurological viability of the brain by contemporary criteria."


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