Longevity Meme Newsletter, December 07 2009

December 07 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.



- Vote for Longevity Science Funding From Chase
- News From the Methuselah Foundation
- Mouse Life Span Increased by a Third (Again)
- Niemals Alt!
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines


Larger organizations are increasingly turning to contests and social networking events to determine some fraction of their charitable donations, which means folk like you and I can collaborate and agitate to steer money to our favored causes. Here is the latest: the Chase Community Giving contest at Facebook:


"Longevity science supporters have won some and lost some over the past year, seeking to direct funds to the SENS Foundation or Methuselah Foundation. It's all good experience and exposure even when the prize goes to another charity - or as happened in the Amex contest, where the organizers themselves veto any support for longevity science, no matter how the vote goes. Social networking in a community is like a muscle: use it or lose it, and grow stronger with practice. But for an engineered longevity research community to grow in the long term, advocates must be able to convincingly explain why reversing the damage of aging is just as worthy a cause as homeless shelters, childrens' cancer research, environmentalism, and other, similarly broadly supported endeavors. Participating in these crowdsourced contests for charitable donations helps the community to figure out how to do this.

"The latest event of interest is the Chase Community Giving initiative on Facebook. Over the next week, votes will be accepted to establish a list of the top 100 charities. Each will receive $25,000, and then a second phase of voting and organizer selection will determine larger grants. I encourage you all to go and plug in your list of favored charities with the SENS Foundation and Methuselah Foundation at the top. But first, you might want to swing by the Immortality Institute [as] the Institute volunteers have worked to save you time forming a list of charities."



Have you been keeping up with the Methuselah Foundation newsletters? The latest is available online, and the newsletters are the best way to keep up with the direction and initiatives of the Foundation:


"It's time to celebrate! It has been a great year at Methuselah and a great year for advances in aging research. Television, newspapers and websites have covered stories on calorie restriction, resveratrol and rapamycin. Leading biologists working in longevity research are finally grabbing the attention of other scientists (this year's Nobel Prize in Medicine is a very real example of this), the media and the general public. Methuselah Foundation is energetically working on new initiatives, connecting with more researchers and predicting some exciting announcements early in 2010."


Scientists have uncovered another novel way to increase the healthy life span of mice by a third. The method used isn't practical at all from a therapeutic point of view, but it looks like the effect may boil down to a few changed genes - and gene manipulation will be safe, reliable, and big business not so many years from now.


"Mice created from two female genomes (bi-maternal (BM) mice) lived an average of 186 days longer than control mice created from the normal combination of a male and female genome. The average lifespan for the type of mice used in the study is between about 600-700 days, meaning that the BM mice lived approximately a third longer than normal. ... We believe that the most likely reason for the differences in longevity relates to the repression of a gene called Rasgrf1 in the BM mice. This gene normally expresses from the paternally inherited chromosome and is an imprinted gene on chromosome 9 associated with post-natal growth. Thus far, it's not clear whether Rasgrf1 is definitively associated with mouse longevity, but it is one of the strong candidates for a responsible gene."

You might compare this with a list of twelve more ways to significantly increase mouse life span:



Aubrey de Grey and Michael Rae's Ending Aging is now translated into German and published by Transcript as "Niemals alt!" Congratulations are due to the volunteer translators: translating material on cutting edge science is a hard job.



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!




At the Cryonics UK website, you'll find a couple of interview videos and another article of press coverage: "Cryonics UK is a non-profit organisation set in place to provide assistance as necessary to those within the UK who wish for their body to be cryopreserved upon 'death'. The inverted commas around the word 'death' here are intentional. ... Science is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is considered
'dead'. Cryonics simply pushes that boundary a little further. By suspending a (legally dead) patient's body in liquid nitrogen, it is possible to prevent further deterioration of the body indefinitely. For obvious reasons, the initial cooldown is to be commenced as soon as possible after the patient is pronounced dead." You'll also find a response to a recent Guardian article that boasted a range of factual errors: "the whole thing is now irrelevant, as [the journalist] spent time with us sufficiently long ago that we've [since] moved to a different location, have a specialised clinic room for our kit and activities, [and are far more effectively organized]."

Via ScienceDaily, an interesting theory: "In spite of their genetic similarity to humans, chimpanzees and great apes have maximum lifespans that rarely exceed 50 years. The difference, explains USC Davis School of Gerontology Professor Caleb Finch, is that as humans evolved genes that enabled them to better adjust to levels of infection and inflammation and to the high cholesterol levels of their meat rich diets. ... these evolutionary genetic advantages, caused by slight differences in DNA sequencing and improvements in diet, make humans uniquely susceptible to diseases of aging such as cancer, heart disease and dementia when compared to other primates. ... Over time, ingestion of red meat, particularly raw meat infected with parasites in the era before cooking, stimulates chronic inflammation that leads to some of the common diseases of aging. ... ApoE3 is unique to humans and may be what Finch calls 'a meat-adaptive gene' that has increased the human lifespan.
However, the minor allele, apoE4, when expressed in humans, can impair neuronal development, as well as shorten human lifespan by about four years and increase the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer disease by several-fold. ApoE4 carriers have higher totals of blood cholesterol, more oxidized blood lipids and early onset of coronary heart disease and Alzheimer's disease."

From h+ Magazine, some thoughts on the development of transhumanist technologies, such as the repair of aging and radical life extension: "Max More has spoken out against the perception of a technological singularity as an inevitable future event, fearing this is a meme too prone to being hijacked by our tendency to believe in a higher power that will solve our problems for us. Let us therefore adapt technological mount improbable to take into consideration the uncertainty inherent in current transhuman speculations. Technological mount improbable is a mountain range covered by clouds. We cannot see the peaks that stand for cures for aging, artificial general intelligence, or productive nanosystems. We suspect such peaks exist, others claim they do not. One thing is certain. Even if they do exist, our vision is not yet clear enough to allow us to see how to climb up there. There are many paths winding their way along the mountain range. Some may allow us to reach a peak in a shorter time than you might have thought possible. They stand for new technologies such as improved gene-sequencing, or improved knowledge such as an overall theory of how the mind works. With luck and effort, we may find ourselves on such paths and ascend to the peaks of artificial general intelligence (AGI), etc., in years or decades rather than centuries. But there are also paths that lead to dead ends, by which I mean incorrect hypotheses regarding the way to treat aging, how to code artificial intelligence, and so on."

Researchers continue to explore varying forms of protein restriction in lower animals: "The fruit flies were fed a diet of yeast, sugar and water, but with differing amounts of key nutrients, such as vitamins, lipids and amino acids. The researchers found that varying the amount of amino acids in the mixture affected lifespan and fertility; varying the amount of the other nutrients had little or no effect. In fact, when the researchers studied the effect further, they found that levels of a particular amino acid known as methionine were crucial to maximising lifespan without decreasing fertility. Adding methionine to a low calorie diet boosted fertility without reducing lifespan; likewise, reducing methionine content in a high calorie diet prolonged lifespan. Previous studies have also shown that reducing the intake of methionine in rodents can help extend lifespan. ... By carefully manipulating the balance of amino acids in the diet, we have been able to maximise both lifespan and fertility. This indicates that it is possible to extend lifespan without wholesale dietary restriction and without the unfortunate consequence of lowering reproductive capacity."

Manipulating, removing, or transplanting ovaries has been shown to influence longevity in mammals - quite dramatically in the case of mice. Here are more examples, this time in dogs and humans: "The researchers collected and analyzed lifetime medical histories, ages and causes of death for 119 canine 'centenarians' - exceptionally long-lived Rottweiler dogs [and compared them] to a group of 186 Rottweilers that had usual longevity ... Like women, female dogs in our study had a distinct survival advantage over males. But taking away ovaries during the first four years of life completely erased the female survival advantage. We found that female Rottweilers that kept their ovaries for at least six years were four times more likely to reach exceptional longevity compared to females who had the shortest lifetime ovary exposure. ... The pet dog research [mirrors] the findings of the Nurses' Health Study published this summer by Dr. William Parker ... Parker's group studied more than 29,000 women who underwent a hysterectomy for benign uterine disease. The findings showed that the upside of ovary removal - protection against ovarian, uterine and breast cancer - was outweighed by increased mortality from other causes. As a result, longevity was cut short in women who lost their ovaries before the age of 50 compared with those who kept their ovaries for at least 50 years."

This coming weekend, the 5th, sees the 2009 Humanity+ Summit held in Irvine, California: "The goal of Humanity+ is to support discussion and public awareness of emerging technologies, to defend the right of individuals in free and democratic societies to adopt technologies that expand human capacities, and to anticipate and propose solutions for the potential consequences of emerging technologies. ... What is going to be like to be a human in this next phase of technological progress? How can we get our heads around it so when it arrives we're best prepared to deal with it? We foresee the feasibility of redesigning the human condition, including such parameters as the inevitability of aging, limitations on human and artificial intellects, unchosen psychology, suffering, and our confinement to the planet earth. The possibilities are tremendously broad and exciting." The program includes a session on longevity science and progress towards enhancing the human life span.

THE VITAE INSTITUTE (December 01 2009)
The Vitae Institute is another of the modest and diverse initiatives sprung forth from the healthy life extension community in recent years. "The Vitae Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization incorporated in 2006 to forward a scientific understanding of the mechanisms of aging and to develop technology and therapies to cure age-associated pathologies. Despite the existence of many organizations formed for the purpose of elucidating the mechanisms of aging and developing life extension technology, few contribute to these purported ends. I therefore believe that with the activities and ideology described on this website, the Vitae Institute is poised to play a significant role in accelerating the realization of bona fide life extension technologies." The Institute mission and history page is good material and well worth your time to read. Their take on the state of aging research and what is required to move forward seems good; very similar to that of the Methuselah Foundation and related advocates.

Biomedical gerontologist and advocate for engineered longevity Aubrey de Grey participates in this CNN webcast: "Geneticist Aubrey de Grey is the Chief Scientific Officer of SENS Foundation, which researches and promotes regenerative medicine. He said that techniques such as stem cell therapy, gene therapy and tissue engineering could one day be used in combination to let humans live for hundreds of years. ... The real advantage of applying regenerative medicine to the problem of ageing is that we can actually turn the biological clock backwards. We [will be able to] take people who are already middle aged, or perhaps older, and turn them back to having a lower biological age. ... In the run up to the Webcast, CNN readers submitted questions for the panel. One asked if living for a 1,000 years would mean spending the last 200 years of your life in a nursing home. De Grey answered that regenerative medicine has the potential to stop the degeneration process, meaning people could stay in a youthful state indefinitely. The panelists agreed that dramatically increasing human life expectancy would have huge consequences for society and the economy. But they added that, rather than being a huge drain on healthcare systems, providing regenerative medicine on a widespread basis could actually benefit the economy, cutting down on medical costs by eliminating chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer."

The future of cancer therapies lies in increasingly precise methods of targeting only cancer cells for destruction or reprogramming. Here is another of the many techniques presently under development: "Aptamers are small pieces of RNA that bind to a specific target molecule, usually a protein. They offer ease of use because they can be easily regenerated and modified and therefore have increased stability over some other agents, such as protein-based antibodies. Notably, they have a very low chance of immune-system interference, making them great candidates for tumor diagnosis and therapy. ... Most importantly, it's not necessary to have detailed knowledge of protein changes in the disease before the selection process. This greatly simplifies the process of molecular probe development. The selected aptamers can be used to discover proteins not previously linked with the disease in question, which could speed up the search for effective therapies. ... researchers used a large pool of RNA strands and applied them to a rodent with a liver tumor, the type of metastatic tumor that often results from a colon cancer tumor. ... We hypothesized that the RNA molecules that bind to normal cellular elements would be filtered out, and this happened. In this way, we found the RNA molecules that went specifically to the tumor."

A popular science article on rising interest amongst researchers in naked-mole rat biochemistry: "Able to live up to 30 years, these 3 to 4 inch East African critters are being used to study everything from strokes to cancer to aging in hopes that scientists might find new insights into human health complications. ... At the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, researcher Rochelle Buffenstein is responsible for tending a 1,500-member-strong mole rat colony that makes its abode in series of large clear tanks connected by long transparent tubes. Though the San Antonio colony is by far the largest in the U.S., a number of other universities around the country have begun founding their own mole rat communities for research purposes. Despite significant levels of inbreeding within their colonies - a phenomenon that usually tends to weaken genetic integrity and thus decrease longevity - naked mole rats can live to be 30 years old, or more than 15 times longer than the average lab mouse. ... perhaps most the most significant and intriguing oddity displayed by these rodents is their complete resistance to cancer. ... researchers speculated that their immunity to cancer may be attributed to a particular gene known as p16 which prevents cells from growing together in crowded clusters."



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