Longevity Meme Newsletter, January 17th 2011

January 17th 2011

The Longevity Meme Newsletter is a weekly email containing news, opinions, and happenings for people interested in aging science and engineered longevity: making use of diet, lifestyle choices, technology, and proven medical advances to live healthy, longer lives. This newsletter is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. In short, this means that you are encouraged to republish and rewrite it in any way you see fit, the only requirements being that you provide attribution and a link to the Longevity Meme.



- Aubrey de Grey in GQ Magazine
- Immune System Rejuvenation Through Selective Destruction
- "But what's a root canal?"
- Technical and Audience Information for Fight Aging!


Last year, GQ published an article on biomedical gerontologist and longevity science advocate Aubrey de Grey - and then never got around to republishing it online. Fortunately, scans of the article have now surfaced:


"De Grey likes to compare the future of treating aging to the time line of human-powered flight. For millennia, man dreamed of flying. Nothing happened. Five hundred years ago, Leonardo da Vinci presented detailed drawings of flying machines. Nothing happened. Then, in a mad rush, we catapulted from the Wright brothers to Lindbergh to the Concorde to the space shuttle.

"Fewer than sixty years have passed since Watson and Crick - modern medicine's Orville and Wilber - proposed the structure of DNA. Only seven years have passed since the Human Genome Project mapped our genetic sequence. Gene therapy wasn't even theorized until the 1960s. In the past few years, it's been used in major medical breakthroughs: It was used to cure squirrel monkeys of color blindness, and recently doctors in Paris used it to slow a fatal brain disease called X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy in young boys. What comes next, de Grey predicts, is a series of extraordinary medical progressions, each a further order of magnitude more sophisticated than anything available today."

If you like what you read, consider supporting de Grey's organization, the SENS Foundation:



As you age, your current population of immune cells stop being coordinated and aggressive defenders of your body, and start acting more like a crowd of lazy and confused bystanders. Your body doesn't replace them, however: the mechanisms that ensure you have a set of immune cells up and running don't check to see whether or not the present population of immune cells is doing a good job. Heads are counted, and if there are enough heads then no new immune cells are created.


"All is not gloom, however, and we can look ahead to very near-future biotechnologies that will address this issue and go some way towards restoring good immune function to the old. Scientists are in the midst of developing a new generation of technologies that can very precisely kill specific cell types - the cancer research community has been demonstrating targeted cell killing methods in the laboratory for some years now. These cell killing technologies are perfect for use in attempts to restore an age-damaged immune system to a more youthful state by culling the unwanted cells."

"I've been talking about this for a few years now, so I'm always pleased to see signs of progress in efforts to reverse declining immune response by selective destruction of immune cells. Here is an example of one early stage effort that demonstrates a benefit resulting from this approach: the researchers removed the existing population of immune cells, which caused the natural generation of a better-equipped replacement population of cells, and a consequently better immune system."


We are the last generation who will be familiar with the major procedures of modern dentistry - if you are in your twenties now, your children will never undergo root canal surgery, and their children won't even know what a root canal procedure is.


"Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering will transform the field of dentistry profoundly over the next two decades, and what little of the old that's left after that will be mopped up by biotechnologies that destroy the ability of harmful bacteria to thrive in your mouth. There will be no cavities or periodontitis, and where accidents cause damage, the teeth, bone, gum tissue, and related structures such as the ligaments that attach teeth to the jaw will be replaced anew with tissue grown from the patient's own cells."


Over the past month of work to merge the Longevity Meme into Fight Aging!, I've spent more time on the technical and web statistics side of the house. For those who are interested, here are two posts that provide a little background on the site:



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!



Friday, January 14, 2011
From KurzweilAI.net, a friendly interview with Max More, who was recently hired as CEO of cryonics provider Alcor: "I spent the last 10 or 11 years learning about business processes and culture, and have run some nonprofits before, but I'm looking forward to tackling the challenges. Fortunately, I'm far from alone in this responsibility. In addition to Alcor's highly experienced board of directors, my first week on the job demonstrated the dedication, skill, and helpfulness of Alcor's staff. While it takes a while to get up to speed on all the operational details of an organization like Alcor, I'm looking forward to working with the board to develop a renewed and refined strategic plan that will help us realize Alcor's huge potential to help far more people have a chance at renewed life in the future. ... My goal is really to maintain the traditions of Alcor, to protect its patients, but also to stimulate new growth, to improve the way everything functions, and to change the whole public perception to a much more positive view. Alcor is the most technologically advanced cryonics organization. We are on a path to continue improving our capabilities while doing our utmost to protect and preserve our existing cryopreserved members. ... the most important thing to me is making sure the organization is stable and will not get knocked out by financial or legal attacks or other issues. One of my top priorities is to make sure that we're stable for the long-term by either increasing income or reducing costs. ... Another priority is to restart growth. When I signed up as an Alcor member [for cryopreservation] in 1986 I was the 67th member. Since then, Alcor has grown to about 930 right now, and the number of cryopreserved people has gone from six to 102. At the Extropy Institute Extro conferences, if asked who were members, out of few hundred people, a majority would put up their hands, showing off their bracelets. Today, you don't get the same response - the recent growth has really slowed down. It seems ridiculous to me that in a world population of close to 7 billion, we only have 1000+ members signed up. I think we can do much better, starting with the most promising groups, such as transhumanists."

Friday, January 14, 2011
This paper suggests that modest benefits to life expectancy - and certainly to immune system health - could be made by establishing vaccine programs that continue throughout life, not just in childhood as is presently the case: "Infectious diseases remain a significant cause of [morbidity and mortality] in adults aged over 60 years, and many of these diseases are vaccine-preventable (VPDs). There is a pressing need to promote a lifelong vaccine schedule to increase vaccination against VPDs during the different stages of life. We outline the impact of vaccines on the burden of common infectious diseases and consider the negative clinical impact of VPDs in the unvaccinated population. We further illustrate that vaccine uptake is associated with a reduction in the burden of VPDs at any age of life, due to herd immunity. Disability-free and healthy aging is closely linked to childhood health and medical conditions in young adulthood. The midlife vaccine gap drastically impacts health in later life, especially in unvaccinated and older populations. These arguments underline the need for a preventive lifelong health perspective from childhood through old age."

Thursday, January 13, 2011
Local San Antonio media take a look at the work of the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies: "Naked mole rats aren't much to look at. In fact, you might think the pink, wrinkly, squinty rodents are downright ugly. However, some researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio feel otherwise ('I think they are incredibly cute,' says Zimbabwe-born scientist Rochelle Buffenstein as she tenderly picks up one of thousands squeaking and scurrying through a maze of tubes and plastic tubs). But it's not for their outward appearance that scientists are studying the rodents. Buffenstein and others look beyond the translucent skin and healthy tusks ('They've been called saber tooth sausages and worse,' she says) and see, if not the secret to eternal youth, a chance to cobble a few more decades onto our average 78-year lifespan. That would explain why the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies at the UTHSC-SA maintains the world's largest colony of the naked rats. While not much larger than mice, which live around two years, these creatures keep active and healthy for as long as 30 years. And they have an amazing ability to fight cancer and toxins. This is just one of many areas of anti-aging research that's underway at the San Antonio research center. There's hope that scientists here will find a trigger or series of triggers in the human genetic code that could one day extend the 'youthspan' of people - giving people an extra 20 years, 40 years, maybe even longer, to be young and healthy. To be flip about it: researchers are hunting for the Fountain of Youth. And they're closing in. Discoveries are coming in at such a pace that Gen Xers may find themselves saddled with the Baby Boomers for longer than they had planned."

Thursday, January 13, 2011
More progress towards entirely artificial blood: "A team of scientists has created particles that closely mirror some of the key properties of red blood cells, potentially helping pave the way for the development of synthetic blood. ... researchers used technology known as PRINT (Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates) to produce very soft hydrogel particles that mimic the size, shape and flexibility of red blood cells, allowing the particles to circulate in the body for extended periods of time. Tests of the particles' ability to perform functions such as transporting oxygen or carrying therapeutic drugs have not been conducted, and they do not remain in the cardiovascular system as long as real red blood cells. However, the researchers believe the findings - especially regarding flexibility - are significant because red blood cells naturally deform in order to pass through microscopic pores in organs and narrow blood vessels. Over their 120-day lifespan, real cells gradually become stiffer and eventually are filtered out of circulation when they can no longer deform enough to pass through pores in the spleen. To date, attempts to create effective red blood cell mimics have been limited because the particles tend to be quickly filtered out of circulation due to their inflexibility."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
From EurekAlert!: researchers "have broken one of the major roadblocks on the path to growing transplantable tissue in the lab: They've found a way to grow the blood vessels and capillaries needed to keep tissues alive. ... The inability to grow blood-vessel networks - or vasculature - in lab-grown tissues is the leading problem in regenerative medicine today. If you don't have blood supply, you cannot make a tissue structure that is thicker than a couple hundred microns. ... As its base material, a team of researchers [chose] polyethylene glycol (PEG), a nontoxic plastic that's widely used in medical devices and food. ... the scientists modified the PEG to mimic the body's extracellular matrix - the network of proteins and polysaccharides that make up a substantial portion of most tissues. [They then] combined the modified PEG with two kinds of cells - both of which are needed for blood-vessel formation. Using light that locks the PEG polymer strands into a solid gel, they created soft hydrogels that contained living cells and growth factors. After that, they filmed the hydrogels for 72 hours. By tagging each type of cell with a different colored fluorescent marker, the team was able to watch as the cells gradually formed capillaries throughout the soft, plastic gel. To test these new vascular networks, the team implanted the hydrogels into the corneas of mice, where no natural vasculature exists. After injecting a dye into the mice's bloodstream, the researchers confirmed normal blood flow in the newly grown capillaries. Another key advance [involved] the creation of a new technique called "two-photon lithography," an ultrasensitive way of using light to create intricate three-dimensional patterns within the soft PEG hydrogels. ... the patterning technique allows the engineers to exert a fine level of control over where cells move and grow. In follow-up experiments [the] team plan to use the technique to grow blood vessels in predetermined patterns."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Via Depressed Metabolism, I see that cryonics technology company Suspended Animation is hosting a conference later this year: the company "will sponsor the conference, 'Suspended Animation - The Company and The Goal,' which will be held in Fort Lauderdale in May, 2011. The conference will feature speakers on the latest strategies and advances toward perfecting reversible human suspended animation. During the conference, SA will also host tours and demonstrations at its facility in Boynton Beach. ... Suspended Animation's 2011 conference has been designed to meet your needs. It will provide you with a comprehensive picture of the world of cryonics. It will reveal the scientific foundations of cryonics, the latest advances in cryopreservation research, and the scientific basis for thinking that revival from cryopreservation is a realistic possibility. It will give your desire for survival a jolt of reality that will make you realize that, while the path ahead is difficult, you can help to make it easier. .... [Greg Fahy will present] major new findings from Phase I of a revolutionary longterm project to achieve reversible whole-body solid state suspended animation in humans. This project, conducted at 21st Century Medicine, is the only whole body vitrification research being conducted in mammals and was funded entirely by a $5.6 million dollar grant from the Life Extension Foundation. Cryobiologist Greg Fahy will discuss how well whole animals can be cryopreserved right now, the possibility of using a single advanced vitrification solution to cryopreserve entire animals and, eventually, humans, and a unique, newly-invented technology to produce large, cryopreserved tissue slices for scanning and transmission electron microscopy."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
An updated piece on Aubrey de Grey and the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence from the BBC: "Nearly one in five people living in the UK will survive to see their 100th birthday, according to the government. But a Cambridgeshire academic who specialises in the ageing process says that effective medical care could make it possible to live much longer. Dr Aubrey de Grey said: 'I think the first person to live to 1,000 might be 60 already.' ... Dr de Grey is the chief scientific officer of the SENS Foundation (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) which carries out research into the prevention and cure of ageing. He agreed that the [government] figures were a reasonable projection but added that this was not a new idea. 'Longevity has been increasing by a couple of years each decade for more than 50 years now, due to the success we have had in keeping people from getting the diseases of old age, and in keeping them in better condition throughout their whole lives.' ... We will not be simply keeping people alive in a frail, sick state. We will be actually keeping them in a youthful state so that they have a low probability of dying each year. ... The medicines that I think are going to come along in the next 20 or 30 years are ones that not only slow down the ageing process and keep us from getting quite so sick, quite so young, but also reverse the ageing process. In other words, conduct periodic repair and maintenance at the molecular and cellular level, so that even if we have already accumulated some of the damaging effects of ageing we can be periodically fixed up - like any simple man-made machine. Once we get medicine like that, we should be in a very powerful position to keep people in a genuinely youthful state - not just looking young, but feeling young and functioning young - for as long as we like."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Here is a recent study of psychological resilience in centenarians: "Resilience, a psychological construct, has been defined differently in extant literatures. In this paper, we adopt the simplified and straightforward definition [that] resilience connotes the ability to adapt positively to adversity. Previous studies have demonstrated that resilience is generally positively correlated with cognitive function, physical health and self-reported health among the elderly, as well as with self-rated successful aging in developed countries. ... We aim to investigate whether centenarians are significantly more resilient than younger elders and whether resilience significantly contributes to exceptional longevity. ... We use a unique dataset from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey with the largest sample to date of centenarians, nonagenarians, octogenarians, and a compatible group of young old aged 65-79. ... Logistic regressions based on the cross-sectional sample show that after controlling for various confounders, including physical health and cognitive status, centenarians are significantly more resilient than any other old-age group. Logistic regression analyses based on the longitudinal data show that nonagenarians aged 94-98 with better resilience have a 43.1% higher likelihood of becoming a centenarian compared to nonagenarians with lower resilience. ... Resilience significantly contributes to longevity at all ages, and it becomes even more profound at very advanced ages. These findings indicate that policies and programs to promote resilience would have long-term and positive effects on the well-being and longevity for senior citizens and their families." There is of course a question of causation here: if you are more healthy throughout life, which people who become centenarians generally are, won't that make you better able to deal with the various other slings and arrows that come your way?

Monday, January 10, 2011
VIa Accelerating Future, I see that the nanorobotics chapter from the Future of Aging is available online: "Robert Freitas' book chapter for The Future of Aging compilation is now online. It looks very interesting. Freitas always produces fantastic work, that's one of the reasons Kurzweil constantly cites him. ... I talked to Freitas about this work, and he said, 'It's a major piece of work - a current update and the most comprehensive summary so far of the many potential applications of advanced diamondoid medical nanorobotics to conventional and anti-aging medicine.' ... Theoretical designs for diamondoid nanomachinery such as bearings, gears, motors, pumps, sensors, manipulators and even molecular computers already exist. Technologies required for the molecularly precise fabrication of diamondoid mechanical components and medical nanorobots, along with feasible strategies for the mass production of these devices, are the focus of active current research. This chapter describes a comprehensive solution to human morbidity and aging which will be attained when mankind has established control over all critical molecular events in the human body through the use of medical nanorobotics. Medical nanorobots can provide targeted treatments to individual organs, tissues, cells and even intracellular components, and can intervene in biological processes at the molecular level under direct supervision of the physician. Programmable micron-scale robotic devices will make possible comprehensive cures for human disease, the reversal of physical trauma, and individual cell repair."

Monday, January 10, 2011
Cells contain many swarming mitochondria - constantly reproducing by division and being culled by recycling mechanisms. These are the cell's power plants, the evolved remnants of symbiotic bacteria that contain their own DNA and toil to turn food chemicals into ATP. Mitochondrial DNA damage is important in aging, but it progresses in ways that are challenging to examine due to the nature of the mitochondrial life cycle. Here, researchers demonstrate a new application of technology that - even though focused on mitochondrial disease - will enable far more detailed research into mitochondrial damage and aging: "The trouble is that it's very difficult to extract single mitochondria from an individual cell. For years, the best technique has been to break open a group of cells and collect the mitochondria from all of them in a kind of soup. As you might guess, it's hard to determine which mitochondria came from what cells - yet that's what we need to know. ... The research team [has] potentially solved this problem by realizing that several devices and techniques can be used together to extract a single mitochondrion from a cell that possesses a genetic mutation. They employed a method previously used to extract single chromosomes from isolated rice cells where a laser pulse makes an incision in a cell's outer membrane. Another laser is used as a 'tweezer' to isolate a mitochondrion, which then can be extracted by a tiny pipette whose tip is less than a micrometer wide. ... This approach allowed the team to place a single mitochondrion into a small test tube, where they could explore the mitochondrion's genetic makeup by conventional means."



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