LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
January 24th 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.
- A World Without Sleep
- The Ideas of Longevity Science are Spreading
- Reminder: Humanity+ Board Elections Open
- But Fifty Years From Now...
A WORLD WITHOUT SLEEP
If we didn't need to sleep, our lives would effectively be nearly 30% longer: so much more time for everything. This and a few other thoughts on sleep can be found in the following Fight Aging! post:
"Removing the human need to sleep will undoubtedly happen at some point in the decades ahead of us. The potential economic benefits are vast, and so as soon as it becomes remotely plausible we will see tremendous investment in realizing whatever biotechnology ultimately makes it feasible. You might look at the present large and ongoing investment into developing sleep suppressant drugs that are free from significant side effects as a small foretaste of what is to come."
THE IDEAS OF LONGEVITY SCIENCE ARE SPREADING
We are in the business of convincing the world that rejuvenation biotechnology is plausible, desirable, and can happen within our lifetimes if we stand up and help out. It's always good to see more discussion and awareness of these themes our there in the broader community - that is a sign of progress:
"When it's working, advocacy for longevity science funding and progress towards rejuvenation biotechnology is a steady process of growth; an accumulation of articles, conversions, acts of persuasion, and new advocates. It continues year after year, and perhaps it is sometimes hard to tell whether we're better placed in 2011 than we were in 2010, but we can certainly look further back to see clear and meaningful progress over the past five or ten years in public awareness of longevity science, media attention, and support for bold action in the scientific community science. Turning a formerly fringe idea into a mainstream vision for the future - persuading the world, in other words - doesn't happen overnight, sad to say. But it does happen, and it is well underway for the goal of greatly extended healthy longevity."
REMINDER: HUMANITY+ BOARD ELECTIONS OPEN
Humanity+ is holding its board elections over the next couple of weeks; if you're a member, don't forget to vote.
"Humanity+ is a long-standing transhumanist advocacy organization, formed in support of improving the human condition through applied science: extended healthy longevity, engineering the mind, the advent of strong AI, the elimination of disease and suffering, and so forth. ... A great deal of the advocacy process is a matter of slowly raising the water level of awareness and understanding - bootstrapping the size of the community and the breadth of information associated with it. Over the years advocates and supporters produce discussions, articles, and hold events: these form a diffuse and ever growing cloud of information. The larger the cloud, the easier it is for people to encounter your ideas, and the more receptive they will be when they dive in to find a great deal of material ready and waiting for them. In this respect, I think that Humanity+ and h+ Magazine are performing good work these days - increasing the size of the cloud, looking more professional while doing so, and maintaining a profile appropriate to a distributed non-profit whose leaders and activists are scattered across the world."
BUT FIFTY YEARS FROM NOW...
Considering the future and what needs to be done:
"I'm of the opinion that [the urge to hold back change] is a poison of this age. It's in the air, a toxin that seems right at home in the cultural background mix of NIMBY, death by precautionary principle, environmentalist Malthusianism, bioethicists whose funding depends on finding roadblocks, and comfortable, wrong-headed assumptions that next year will look just like last year. Vast numbers of people are trapped in the illusionary moment, fighting every change in an age of change - and there are so many of them that some little part of their attitudes inevitably seeps into every part of the grand multi-threaded conversation that is our culture. Even those parts that are ostensibly focused on achieving progress.
"While this all takes place, hovering over us all is the grand sword: that in fifty years, barring a big fat revolution in the entire ethos and strategic direction of the life science community, we're all dead or dying. There's your existential risk. A very large 'certainly dead, all of us, unless we do something' existential risk. Not a small or unknowable or yet to be quantified risk, but a certainty ... unless we act to develop rejuvenation biotechnology. So we can floor the pedal, or we can talk about why it's a terrible idea to floor the pedal without doing all sorts of other things first. I know which approach I think will dig us out of the hole we're in - and it's not the one that involves moving ahead slowly."
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 HEADLINES FROM FIGHT AGING!
THE RUSSIAN PRESS ON KRIORUS
Friday, January 21, 2011
Here is a short popular Russian press article on KrioRus, the Russian cryonics provider: "It's freezing outside for everyone - but a select few are hoping that the ice holds the key to eternal life. A cryonics firm on Moscow's outskirts has already consigned 15 Russians to the deep freeze in the hope of being reanimated in the future as medical science advances to extend the lives they have completed. Booking a place in the future doesn't have the sci-fi good looks one might hope for, with the company operating in a mundane industrial block. 'It's true, we aren't very glamourous here,' Valeria Praid, the [cryonics] firm's general director, member of the Russian Council of the Transhuman Movement, and futurologist told [the media]. ... Sceptics may point out that frozen people are dead people and so freezing bodies that can no longer sustain life is a futile exercise, but the issue is apparently more complex, and there are different kinds of scientifically recognised death: Clinical death - when the body stops functioning as a whole, but while many cells and organs continue to operate and their structures have not yet started deteriorating. Biological death - the partial destruction of the body's structures. Information-theoretic death - the destruction of the human brain (or any other cognitive structure) and the information within it to such an extent that recovery of the original person is ostensibly impossible. Cryonics, or biostasis, allows corpses somewhere between biological death and information-theoretic death to be preserved, presumably with hopes of revival." More public attention for the endeavor of cryonics is always a good thing.
GROWING HUMAN LIVER TISSUE
Friday, January 21, 2011
Via EurekAlert!: "A new study reports on the success of growing human liver cells on resorbable scaffolds made from material similar to surgical sutures. Researchers suggest that this liver tissue could be used in place of donor organs during liver transplantation or during the bridge period until a suitable donor is available for patients with acute liver failure. ... liver cells have excellent regenerative potential making liver cell transplantation a viable therapeutic approach for patients with metabolic defects or fulminant hepatic failure as the native liver is preserved while liver dysfunction may resolve as regeneration occurs. ... Currently isolated liver cells are used for liver cell transplantation, but these cells suffer during cell isolation and cryopreservation, which is one reason there is limited success with this type of transplant procedure. ... In applying their tissue engineering approach, [the] researchers were able to successfully create new liver tissue providing a potential solution to the obstacles challenging liver cell transplantation. ... The team isolated liver cells from 12 human liver specimens with a viability of 82%. After a two-day culture period, liver cells formed tightly packed cellular aggregates, called spheroids, and took on a liver-like appearance. Human liver cells were distributed across a three-dimensional porous structure of the polymer scaffolding. From day two to four, the average number of spheroids more than doubled from 18 to 41 per visual field. ... Our experimental model represents a promising technique to culture human liver cells and prepare them for transplantation on a biodegradable polymer scaffold into the peritoneal cavity. Further studies are underway to confirm our results and may ultimately offer viable clinical options for liver cell transplantation in the future."
REVISITING THE GENDER LONGEVITY GAP ONCE MORE
Thursday, January 20, 2011
There are a great many theories as to why the well-known gap between male and female longevity exists. Here, researchers look at differences in lifestyle choices and pin the blame on smoking and drinking: "Since the late 1990s there has been evidence that women now outlive men in all countries of the world. Historical records show that in Sweden, Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, England and Wales, the life expectancy of women has exceeded that of men since the mid to late 18th century, and there has been speculation about the causes of gender differences since that time. Different explanations have been postulated for this gender gap, including biological factors. However, there is considerable variability, and sometimes rapid change, in the magnitude of the female mortality advantage over time and in different countries, a variability that poses challenges for simple biological explanations for the gender gap. Earlier research suggested that health behaviours, and particularly men's higher prevalence of smoking, were a major cause of gender differences in the US. Here, we use contemporary mortality data for 30 European countries to examine the extent to which men's higher mortality can be explained by smoking-related and alcohol-related deaths. ... Smoking-related deaths accounted for around 40% to 60% of the gender gap, while alcohol-related mortality typically accounted for around 20% of the gender gap. The range in the contribution of smoking-related deaths reflects gender differences in the uptake of smoking by gender in earlier decades."
PARKINSON'S AS A CONTAGION IN BRAIN CELLS
Thursday, January 20, 2011
It has been known for a while that alpha-synuclein is important in Parkinson's disease, and here is insight into how the condition might spread within the brain once it gets started: "damaged alpha-synuclein proteins [can] spread in a 'prion-like' manner, an infection model previously described for diseases such as BSE (mad cow disease). ... This is a significant step forward in our understanding of the potential role of cell-to-cell transfer of alpha-synuclein in Parkinson's disease pathogenesis and we are very excited about the findings ... A previous observation that aggregated alpha-synuclein protein gradually appears in healthy young neurons transplanted to the brains of Parkinson's patients initially gave rise to the group's hypothesis of cell-to-cell protein transfer. The theory has now been tested in several cell culture experiments. ... We have now shown that alpha-synuclein not only can transfer from one cell to another, but also that the transferred protein can seed aggregation of alpha-synuclein in recipient cells as well. This could be an important mechanism for the spread of the pathology. ,... Transplant trials in mice [strengthened] the theory of cell-to-cell transfer ... Six months after Parkinson's disease model mice were transplanted with healthy dopamine neurons, we found that the new brain cells contained human alpha-synuclein, indicating cell-to-cell transfer from the host brain to the transplants."
A DISCUSSION ON THE FUTURE OF NANOSCIENCE
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The development of nanotechnology has great relevance to the future of healthy longevity; at its simplest, aging is a matter of atoms and molecules being out of place. As our ability to control the building blocks of matter improves, so too will medicine improve in leaps and bounds. Here is an interesting discussion from Nanowerk - experts in the field looking ahead to what is to come: " One of the beautiful things about biology is that biology functions at many different length scales, and all of those length scales are working together to make the being functional. So if you think about down to the molecular scale, to DNA and coding and genetic information, to protein that the genetic information codes, to tissues that it builds up to functional levels - you know, human beings walking around - it's pretty fascinating to think about how all that works together. But it is all basically encoded in these molecules within cells. ... I think the impact of nanoscience in medicine is going to grow dramatically over the next 10 to 20 years, especially in the field of regenerative medicine. Another thing that I am hopeful about is that we will be able to hijack the brilliant mechanisms of biology to construct for us functional non-biological nanosystems. ... one area that's absolutely ripe for incredible advances is the life sciences and medicine, where aggregations of individual nanodevices to create nanosystems will allow us to embrace, rather than run away from, the complexity of biological systems and will give us the tools, I believe, to understand and engineer biological circuitry, which as the root of systems biology and ultimately, I think, will give a technological foundation for personalized medicine. ... I believe that the broad umbrella of nanoscience is rapidly dissolving the traditional barriers between [disciplines], and maybe wiring them a bit together with the idea that now people are thinking about atoms and materials as arbitrary forms, not in the historical sense. Physicists are now using biological systems, and biologists are exploiting solid state devices and microfluidic devices within a myriad of research efforts. People are thinking much more broadly than in the past [and] I think it's the discoveries in science that are driving this direction. When I look at the students who are entering the university system, they're highly motivated by the idea of breaking down the normal barriers and focusing on the new scientific opportunities that emerge."
MAKING HUMAN CELLS MORE RESISTANT TO DAMAGE
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Are there practical, safe, comparatively simple ways to make human cells more resistant to damage, and thereby reduce the effects of aging and disease? Perhaps, and here is an example of this sort of research: researchers "have discovered a molecule that can make brain cells resistant to programmed cell death or apoptosis. ... This molecule, a tiny strand of nucleotides called microRNA-29 or miR-29, has already been shown to be in short supply in certain neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease. Thus, the discovery could herald a new treatment to prompt brain cells to survive in the wake of neurodegeneration or acute injury like stroke. ... There is the real possibility that this molecule could be used to block the cascade of events known as apoptosis that eventually causes brain cells to break down and die. ... The researchers looked at a number of steps in apoptosis and found that miR-29 acts at a key point in the initiation of apoptosis by interacting with a group of genes called the BH3-only family. Interestingly, the microRNA appears to interact with not just one but as many as five members of that family, circumventing a redundancy that existed to allow cell death to continue even if one of them had been blocked." This is somewhat a damage resistance strategy - it doesn't block damage, but it stops a cell from destroying itself in response to damage. This may allow certain classes of cell to continue functioning usefully under some forms of attack (such as the neurodegenerative conditions mentioned above), but as a general strategy it has flaws - cells usually destroy themselves for good reason. Having malfunctioning cells stick around rather than remove themselves is not a good thing in most tissues.
HYPOXIA AND STEM CELLS
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
We know that the cellular response to hypoxia appears to be involved in calorie restriction, possibly because it spurs greater housekeeping efforts - researchers can modulate or replicate some of the effects of calorie restriction by tinkering with hypoxia inducible factor 1 (HIF). Here is a different role for that family of proteins: "Adult stem cells must persist throughout life to ensure continuous replenishment of dead or damaged cells in various tissues of the body. While numerous studies have already begun to identify some of the factors and mechanisms that regulate long term function and survival of stem cells, there is still much to learn in this regard. A growing body of evidence suggests that various types of stem cells exist in a hypoxic microenvironment, which may be conducive to stem cell longevity. We have recently shown that the oxygen dependent transcription factor hypoxia inducible factor 1alpha (Hif1α) is essential for maintenance of functional levels of telomerase in murine embryonic stem cells (mES). Importantly, long-term proliferation of mES cells with reduced Hif1α levels led to telomere shortening and ultimately cell senescence. Studies by others over the past 10 years has also indicated that hypoxia and Hif expression are essential for self-renewal and are involved in the regulation of proliferation for some types of stem cells."
A LOOK AT THE NANOTECHNOLOGY OF TARGETED CANCER THERAPIES
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
From Nanowerk: "Chemotherapeutics generally show a delicate balance between maintaining a high enough dose to kill cancer cells while avoiding a dose so high that it causes severe toxic effects. One of the many promises of nanomedicine is a class of nanoscale drug delivery vehicles that can pinpoint cancer cells and deliver their tumor-killing payload right into cancer cells with high efficiency and no side effects. As an example of how scientists are approaching this goal, [we] have provided a first report on in vivo cancer therapy with mesoporous hollow silica nanomaterials. Based on this novel silica nanorattle structure, the Chinese research team further extended their work to fabricate 'all-in-one' multifunctional gold nanoshells on silica nanorattles (GSNs) which combine remote-controlled photothermal therapy with chemotherapy - resulting in a 'magic bullet' to kill cancer cells. The results indicate that a combination of hyperthermia and chemotherapeutic agents is an encouraging approach to optimizing cancer therapy for the synergistic effects are greater than the two individual treatments alone. ... GSNs are a promising building block with many biomedical applications, such as biological imaging, thermal ablative cancer therapy and immunoassays. Due to the specific silica nanorattle core, GSNs are also promising as a versatile and multifunctional drug delivery platform for their high-payload delivery of various drugs into their targets."
A MASTER SWITCH FOR INFLAMMATION?
Monday, January 17, 2011
Chronic low level inflammation is an important contributing process to aging - and many age-related conditions have an inflammatory component to their mechanisms. Present means of managing inflammation are very crude, and fail to benefit many patients, but more sophisticated methodologies are on the horizon: "Scientists have identified a protein that acts as a 'master switch' in certain white blood cells, determining whether they promote or inhibit inflammation. ... Inflammatory responses are an important defence that the body uses against harmful stimuli such as infections or tissue damage, but in many conditions, excessive inflammation can itself harm the body. In rheumatoid arthritis, the joints become swollen and painful, but the reasons why this happens are not well understood. Cells of the immune system called macrophages can either stimulate inflammation or suppress it by releasing chemical signals that alter the behaviour of other cells. The new study [has] shown that a protein called IRF5 acts as a molecular switch that controls whether macrophages promote or inhibit inflammation. The results suggest that blocking the production of IRF5 in macrophages might be an effective way of treating a wide range of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. In addition, boosting IRF5 levels might help to treat people whose immune systems are compromised."
EARLY NANOTECHNOLOGY VERSUS CANCER, AN OVERVIEW
Monday, January 17, 2011
This open access review paper surveys current uses of nanotechnology in the research and development of cancer therapies: "Nanooncology, the application of nanobiotechnology to the management of cancer, is currently the most important chapter of nanomedicine. Nanobiotechnology has refined and extended the limits of molecular diagnosis of cancer, for example, through the use of gold nanoparticles and quantum dots. Nanobiotechnology has also improved the discovery of cancer biomarkers, one such example being the sensitive detection of multiple protein biomarkers by nanobiosensors. Magnetic nanoparticles can capture circulating tumor cells in the bloodstream followed by rapid photoacoustic detection. Nanoparticles enable targeted drug delivery in cancer that increases efficacy and decreases adverse effects through reducing the dosage of anticancer drugs administered. Nanoparticulate anticancer drugs can cross some of the biological barriers and achieve therapeutic concentrations in tumor and spare the surrounding normal tissues from toxic effects. Nanoparticle constructs facilitate the delivery of various forms of energy for noninvasive thermal destruction of surgically inaccessible malignant tumors. Nanoparticle-based optical imaging of tumors as well as contrast agents to enhance detection of tumors by magnetic resonance imaging can be combined with delivery of therapeutic agents for cancer. Monoclonal antibody nanoparticle complexes are under investigation for diagnosis as well as targeted delivery of cancer therapy. Nanoparticle-based chemotherapeutic agents are already on the market, and several are in clinical trials. Personalization of cancer therapies is based on a better understanding of the disease at the molecular level, which is facilitated by nanobiotechnology. Nanobiotechnology will facilitate the combination of diagnostics with therapeutics, which is an important feature of a personalized medicine approach to cancer."