Longevity Meme Newsletter, September 14 2009

September 14 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.



- More SENS4 Conference Coverage
- Calorie Restriction Society Conference in November
- The Goal-Oriented Immortalist
- Alcor Cryopreservation Case Summaries
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


The 4th Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence conference wrapped up a week ago, and you'll recall I pointed out some early coverage in the last newsletter. You'll find links to more posts and recorded video of interviews and presentations from the conference below:


"Immortality Institute organizer Mind was in attendance and streaming video as the conference progressed; you'll find a number of those videos archived at the Immortality Institute Ustream Channel - including [a] presentation on adoptive T cell therapy ... Amongst the other material is a three part video of the presentation [given] by Natalia Gavrilova on factors influencing survival to the age of 100. Many thanks go to Mind for taking the time and effort to attend the conference and put this all together."


"if you can somehow tag cells (such as age-damaged immune cells) with a magnetic nanoparticle, then you can use a magnetic field to selectively remove them from a fluid environment: ... Justin Rebo spoke about some initial experiments that show it's feasible to selectively remove anergic T cells from old mice. The basic idea: remove some blood from a mouse; mix it with some selective superparamagnetic antibodies; clean the blood by applying a magnet to separate out tagged cells; put it back into the animal."

I expect that more material will surface later, as is customary. Past SENS conferences have been well recorded on video, but that material usually required a couple of weeks to make it online in its final form - see the quality videos of presentations given at SENS3 for example:



The Calorie Restriction Society are holding their 6th conference in November, and this year will be a little different from the usual:


"The Sixth CR Society Conference (CR-VI) will be held in Atlanta from November 18-22, 2009 as a part of The Gerontological Society of America's 62nd Annual Scientific Meeting at the Hilton Atlanta and Atlanta Marriott Marquis. The first five CR Society conferences were small 'CRS only' events attracting between 25 and 85 attendees. This time we are partnering with the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) to have our conference as a part of the much larger GSA Meeting. The GSA has over 5000 members with over 3300 attending their last conference. The theme of this year's conference is 'Creative Approaches to Healthy Aging,' fitting our goals perfectly!

"Even if you're not on CR, there are plenty of reasons to attend: wanting to learn more about the science of CR and possible CR mimetics; to attend, at a discounted rate, the scientific session of the GSA, which is solid, often-unpublished biogerontological (including but not limted to CR) research; to hang out with fellow prolongevists, CR or not; and to mix it up a bit with the gerontological establishment and hopefully push some paradigms."

If you're new to the concepts of calorie restriction, you'll find an introduction at the Longevity Meme:



Some examples of efforts to advance the discussion over longevity science by planting a flag far out beyond the present mainstream debate can presently be found at h+ Magazine. The staff there recently published an interview with Jason Silva, a filmmaker and advocate for longevity-enhancing research who labels himself - quite deliberately and with forethought - an "immortalist":


"The Immortalist Solution is simply this: the time has come for man to get over his cosmic inferiority complex. To rise above his condition - and to use technology to extend himself beyond his biological limitations. 'We must never forget we are cosmic revolutionaries, not stooges conscripted to advance a natural order that kills everybody,' says Harrington."

Cosmic revolutionaries indeed. The human race is change and creation made manifest; we no longer live in caves and filth because our ancestors worked hard to alter that reality. Nowadays we live in the midst of a revolution in biotechnology, and far grander aspects of the human condition are ripe for change: disease, aging, pain, frailty, and involuntary death. We and our descendants will engineer away all these things in exactly the same way as our predecessors engineered away past woes.


No-one likes to think about their own death - a subject made especially touchy by the prospects of greatly enhanced longevity on the horizon. Are we going to be the last generation to miss out on that future, whilst those just a few decades younger will live on for centuries in good health? Will we live long enough to benefit from future rejuvenation medicine, or will we have to take advantage of cryonics services such as those provided by Alcor in order for a chance at a far longer healthy life in the future?


Consider that our minds are data, stored as fine structures in the brain: if your brain is preserved intact at low temperatures following clinical death, then you have all the time in the world to await future technologies capable of restoring you to an active and healthy life. It's a risk, a gamble, but one that looks much better than the grave.

Since no-one likes to think about their own death, the organizational details of cryonics and arranging a cryopreservation are topics that tend to go unexamined. I'm sure that many of you have seen images of Alcor's facilities and machinery in the news over the past few years, but few of you have thought about just how the transition from alive-but-failing to low temperature storage actually happens:


"Alcor recently posted a couple of case summaries; if you are contemplating signing up for cryopreservation then you should take a look. They are good examples of how things tend to go when there are no serious hitches - and I'm sure you can imagine how any additional uncertainties or medical complications could greatly increase the time required on standby and thus the cost. ... one of the services provided by a cryonics group like Alcor is experience in ways to mitigate risk and uncertainty in time of death. People look at Alcor and tend to focus on the vats of liquid nitrogen, stored preservees, and physical premises, but the standby teams, talent, and experience needed to manage the cryopreservation process and its lead-in are no less important."


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!




SOME THOUGHTS ON SENS4 (September 11 2009)
Some thoughts on the SENS4 conference at Transhuman Goodness: "The conference included around 90 talks, most of them by academic biomedical researchers, many of whom from 'serious' universities such as UCL, Cambridge University, etc. A typical topic would be 'we have this hypothesis about how this part of the ageing process works, and we tested it in this trial/we built this device'. ... Now, as far as conquering death for those people who are currently within a few decades of dying goes, we are going to have to do an awful lot more, and pull out a lot more stops than I saw evidence of at SENS; if there's one overriding impression I really want to avoid, it is the impression that now that SENS exists, the ageing problem is handled, for that would be a fatal mistake to make. The problem of ageing is a very hard one, primarily because the human body is very, very complicated and very, very messy. The average biomedical talk given at SENS, which represented the work of a few researchers for a total time of perhaps a few months to a year, would typically make some small increment of progress on some small subsystem of the human body, and in some cases that progress was the refutation of some previous promising piece of work. ... Coming back to the subject of the conference itself, I was pleased overall: it was well-organized, professional and contained a lot of good science. ... My thanks go out to and all those who worked hard to make the conference a success; we should all be grateful to those who work towards the betterment of humankind by trying to defeat ageing, for they are the true heroes of our time."

From the Vancouver Sun: "People who stay even moderately fit as they age may live longer than those who are out-of-shape, a new study suggests. The study, of nearly 4,400 healthy U.S. adults, found that the roughly 20 percent with the lowest physical fitness levels were twice as likely to die over the next nine years as the 20 percent with the next-lowest fitness levels. That was with factors like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes taken into account - underscoring the importance of physical fitness itself ... Our findings suggest that sedentary lifestyle, rather than differences in cardiovascular risk factors or age, may explain (the) two-fold higher mortality rates in the least-fit versus slightly more fit healthy individuals. ... These results emphasize the importance of improving and maintaining high fitness levels by engaging in regular physical activity, particularly in poorly fit individuals ... Since it is recent physical activity that offers protection, it is important to maintain regular physical activity throughout life. ... And since fitness is linked to longevity regardless of weight and health conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol."

THE VIEW FROM THE EDGE (September 10 2009)
This is why cryonics is important - it is the only viable chance at great longevity for the billions who will not live to see the technologies of radical life extension: "there's bad timing, and then there's this: Instead of a day late and a dollar short, most of us are a day early and ... well, money doesn't even play into it, because we're gonna die. ... But a lot of us alive today are likely to really have our noses rubbed in that vexing mortality thing, because it's looking more and more as if nanotech-boosted medicinal biology is going to make 'life extension' an everyday term. Nanobots will be able to repair the slightest defect arising from defective genes, a detrimental environment, and even, yes, aging. In short, people are going to live forever. ... Which is all well and good - hell, great - for anyone around when our progressive, humane national health care system of the future starts accepting appointments for regular 3,000-mile/3-year nanobot tune-ups. (It's fun to imagine Jiffy-Lube-like life-extension outlets - without the pneumatic lug-nut tighteners, one hopes - but it'll probably be geekier and more complicated than that.) Many of the rest of us, though, will live to be just close enough to the breakthrough to know that it's coming, and to eat our deteriorating hearts out: Those lucky blankety-blanks are going to live forever, and all I get is this lousy shroud."

Via EurekAlert!: scientists "are reporting development of the first nanoparticles that seek out and destroy brain cancer cells without damaging nearby healthy cells. ... glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) [often] causes death within months of diagnosis. Recent studies show that titanium dioxide nanoparticles, a type of light-sensitive material widely used in sunscreens, cosmetics, and even wastewater treatment, can destroy some cancer cells when the chemical is exposed to ultraviolet light. However, scientists have had difficulty getting nanoparticles, each about 1/50,000th the width of a human hair, to target and enter cancer cells while avoiding healthy cells. ... The scientists' solution involves chemically linked titanium dioxide nanoparticles to an antibody that recognizes and attaches to GMB cells. When they exposed cultured human GMB cells to these so-called 'nanobio hybrids,' the nanoparticles killed up to 80 percent of the brain cancer cells after 5 minutes of exposure to focused white light." This research is representative of many other similar projects; this sort of approach typifies the impending next generation of cancer therapies.

An update on induced pluripotency work from ScienceDaily: "human fat removed during liposuction conceal versatile cells that are more quickly and easily coaxed to become induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, than are the skin cells most often used by researchers ... Fibroblasts, or skin cells, must be grown in the lab for three weeks or more before they can be reprogrammed. But these stem cells from fat are ready to go right away ... Unlike highly specialized skin-cell fibroblasts, these cells in the fat have a relatively wide portfolio of differentiation options - becoming fat, bone or muscle as needed. It's this pre-existing flexibility, the researchers believe, that gives these cell an edge over the skin cells. ... These cells are not as far along on the differentiation pathway, so they're easier to back up to an earlier state. They are more embryonic-like than fibroblasts, which take more effort to reprogram." Every discovery that makes it easier and cheaper to work with stem cells will help speed up progress in developing working regenerative therapies.

THE FOREVER QUESTION (September 09 2009)
Vision has an interview with Gerontology Research Group co-founder Robert Nathan: "For me, extending our healthy years is an immediate short-term step on the longer path to reverse the aging process and thereby attain physiological immortality with high quality of life, though it isn't clear how well we can avert catastrophic accidental death. Also, the big killer diseases appear to be age related: heart, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer's. If we reverse aging, do we avoid these killers? ... Over the past 50 years that I've been following this field not much real progress occurred until this last decade, starting with the mapping of the human genome. More attention has recently been focused on the mitochondria. And the most recent focus is on the control of stem cells already in our bodies. But please note, we all carry immortal cells within us. These are our germ cells, those involved with reproduction: sperm and eggs. There are also a limited number of nearly immortal stem cells. The rest of our body is composed of somatic cells that no longer divide and tend to die under some kind of programmed control. When I was young, the medical dogma declared that muscle, neural and kidney cells no longer increase in number once we mature. Today all that has been reversed. We have always had in our bodies different kinds of nearly immortal stem cells, which can replenish all three of these tissues on demand."

The Times uses a forthcoming film adaptation as an excuse to pack a little of almost every previously discussed aspect of longevity science into a general interest article. Consider it a sign of the times: "While in the developed world every succeeding generation has enjoyed a longer life expectancy than the one before it - thanks primarily to modern sanitation, nutrition, disease control and a virtual end to infant mortality, which has stretched life expectancy from under 50 years to more than 75 in the past century - it is only this generation that has really dared to think of ageing as a 'disease' that requires curing. So, while the middle-aged of today can look forward to notching up about 80 or 90 years, some biologists have speculated that our children will routinely surpass the 120-year mark with their faculties intact. ... Some researchers believe that if senescence (the ageing of an organism) can be reduced or even reversed, its end point - death - is no longer inevitable. The controversial British researcher Aubrey de Grey sees no reason why the human body cannot last for 1,000 years (barring accidents). He believes that such a modern-day Methuselah already walks among us. De Grey's vision is close to that of 'transhumanists', people who believe in using science to transcend the limitations of being human, the most obvious limitation being death."

From the New Scientist: "It is becoming clear that people who break through the 90-plus barrier represent a physical elite, markedly different from the elderly who typically die younger than them. Far from gaining a longer burden of disability, their extra years are often healthy ones. They have a remarkable ability to live through, delay or entirely escape a host of diseases that kill off most of their peers. Supercentenarians - people aged 110 or over - are even better examples of ageing gracefully. ... As a demographic group, they basically didn't exist in the 1970s or 80s. They have some sort of genetic booster rocket and they seem to be functioning better for longer periods of time than centenarians. ... The average supercentenarian had freely gone about their daily life until the age of 105 or so, some five to 10 years longer even than centenarians, who are themselves the physical equivalent of people eight to 10 years their junior. ... Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, is relatively rare among centenarians yet, intriguingly, autopsies reveal that the brains of the oldest old, who had shown no outward sign of dementia, are sometimes riddled with the lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease. The basis of this resilience to Alzheimer's is largely unknown. The simple fact is that many people who become centenarians seem able to tolerate damage that would significantly harm less robust individuals, and although many suffer from dementia as death draws near, most remain mentally agile well into their nineties."

An interesting paper: "Women experience more years of vigorous life after ovulation has ceased than do females of other primate species. Is this an epiphenomenon of the greater life expectancy humans have enjoyed in the past century or so, or is long post-menopausal survival the result of an evolutionary selection process? Recent research implies the latter: Long post-menopausal survival came about through natural selection. One prominent line of thought explaining this selection process is the grandmother hypothesis. ... The hypothesis contends that, in past epochs, women who remained vigorous beyond their fertile years may have enhanced their reproductive success by providing care for their grandchildren. This care would have enabled their daughters to resume reproduction sooner, endowing them with greater lifetime fertility. Genes of grandmothers possessing such old-age vigor would be more likely to persist in subsequent generations. Is midlife menopause a uniquely human phenomenon, or does the chimpanzee, our closest primate relative, also display this trait? If so, we might expect a grandmother effect in this species as well. However, female chimpanzees continue to cycle until near the end of their maximum life span of about 60 years. ... Long survival beyond fertility and a long life expectancy are distinctive human adaptations."

Some types of human mitochondrial DNA are objectively better than others, as demonstrated by comparative absence or prevalence in specific population groups. As we move towards technologies capable of replacing age-damaged mitochondrial DNA, consider that we could also be receiving an upgrade - there is no known biological obstacle to completely replacing a mammal's mitochondrial DNA. The new DNA should simply pick up where the old DNA left off and mitochondria will continue to function as intended: "Elite athletic endurance ability involves multiple genetic and environmental factors, with little known about the specific genotypes involved. As a first step to finding genetic markers of endurance performance, we recruited 66 male endurance runners and 110 control athletes. We investigated the distribution of m.5178CA polymorphisms [in mitochondrial DNA] in male endurance runners. Although the m.5178A genotype has been reportedly associated with longevity, endurance runners in this study showed a significantly higher frequency (71.2%) of the m.5178C genotype than control subjects (52.7%). The-m.5178C genotype may be favorable for performance in elite endurance runners."



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