He'll Let Folk Know When the Worm Zapping Commences

You might recall that the Immortality Institute raised funds for a test of laser ablation of lipofuscin, to run on nematode worms using commercially available laser equipment:

The good news for today is that the longevity science grassroots centered at the Immortality Institute have successfully raised $8,000 to fund research into laser ablation of lipofuscin. Those funds will be matched up to $16,000 at the SENS Foundation and put towards work on a method of eliminating one form of damaging metabolic byproducts that build up with age.

Lipofuscin is the name given to a collection of various waste products of metabolism that are hard for the body to break down. They build up inside cells, collecting in the recycling mechanisms of lysosomes and causing cellular housekeeping to progressively fail over time. Ways to safely break down lipofuscin are very much required as a part of the envisaged package of future rejuvenation biotechnology that can prevent and reverse aging.

One proposed methodology for tackling lipofuscin is the use of pulsed laser light targeted at very specific molecules and molecular bonds: in theory, it should be possible to significantly impact lipofuscin levels without harming the cells that contain this gunk. Whether this is the case in practice remains to be seen, but it is an approach well worth testing: after all, lasers are already routinely used in dermatology to achieve conceptually similar goals, and the cost of this test is minimal in the grand scheme of things. Hence the laser ablation project funded by forward-looking donor and organized by the Immortality Institute.

You'll find recent updates on the state of the laser ablation test in the Longecity thread for the project:

Here is the basic agenda for the remainder of the project:

1) Test the effect of 8ns pulses on worm lifespan, at many different intensities. ... The beam coming straight out of the laser has terrific coherence and a nice tophat profile, which although it is 8ns, which is a little harsh, it is wonderfully consistent, great at destroying pigments, and we can rest assured that all worms on the slide are getting the exact same exposure every time.

2) Examine effect on worm activity/livelihood. Since the worms grow distinctively and progressively less active in the 2nd half of their life, this can be used to roughly assess quality of life changes; i.e. if worms are all dying at the same time, but at 75% lifespan, laser-treated groups are still quite active, this could be seen as a definite extension of useful lifespan.

3) Examine changes in pigmentation, if any. I may even be able to rig up a crude blacklight setup and get some fluorescence going. Or we could lop two months of the end of the 8-month project and buy a basic fluorescence scope with the extra $2500


4) Assess the effect of laser treatment on a more long-lived strain of worms (such as DAF-16 mutants), as well as the wild-type. This could provide useful clues as to what is going on, whichever way the results go.


It's still taking awhile to breed more DA1116 worms. I can see how this is going to go - things are going to stretch out a bit, partly due to my schedule and partly due to using long-lived worms, and the nature of lifespan experiments in general. Therefore I propose using experiments as milestones instead of sticking to a fixed weekly or monthly schedule. Thus the project will span at least 8 complete lifespan experiments, regardless of how long it takes to complete them. The remaining 'monthly' salary and expense checks could be sent at the start of experiments 3, 5 and 7 - which will doubtless end up being more than one month apart. This definitely seems more appropriate to me - that way all of our gracious donors get the same amount of science for their money, regardless of how long it takes.

The fluorescence scope may or may not be purchased for this project, depending on how our financial situation pans out on this end. It may end up being budgeted as part of a future project proposal instead; but we can cross that bridge when we get there.

I'll let everyone know as soon as the worm zapping begins.

One of the Immortality Institute volunteers visited the lab recently, and so you'll find photographs of the equipment, work area, and researcher in the thread to go along with the updates.

By way of a reminder, the Institute continues to raise funding for their next project, an investigation of microglia transplantation as a therapy for age-related neurodegeneration. $5,500 of the needed $8,000 has been raised, and futher donations are very welcome. Every dollar donated will be matched by an additional dollar from the Institute and its sponsors, so that the completed fundraiser will send $16,000 to the laboratory that will carry out the research:

Cognitive functions of the brain decline with age. One of the protective cell types in the brain are called microglia cells. However, these microglia cells also loose function with age. Our aim is to replace non-functional microglia [in mice] with new and young microglia cells derived from adult stem cells.


The full PDF format research proposal is available: the work will be carried out by a graduate research assistant and will cost $16,000. This is the essence of our present era of biotechnology: a task that would have occupied a whole laboratory and its equipment in the 1980s, and cost a great deal of money if it was even possible at all, is now something that a skilled graduate-level life scientist can organize and run himself within an established lab.

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