FIGHT AGING! NEWSLETTER
August 1st 2011
The Fight Aging! 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 Fight Aging!
- Partaking of the Hope
- We Don't Need to Persuade Everyone
- Calorie Restriction Improves Quality of Life
- Always Consider Calorie Restriction When Looking at Research
- Latest Headlines from Fight Aging!
PARTAKING OF THE HOPE
It is an unfortunate truth that progress in medical technology requires work, advocacy, and efforts to raise funding. If that isn't happening to a great enough degree, then there will be no progress:
"There are all too many people in the world who are happy to partake in the growing hope of engineered longevity and human rejuvenation, but who then sit back and do nothing to help bring about that desired future. And so the world works as it has always done: if everyone drinks hope and air, then hope and air is all that will come into being. Medical technologies do not develop themselves. They only arise in an environment of support, aggressive fundraising, and widespread agitation for their creation - environments in which a lot of people are materially contributing, in other words. So don't feel as though you are made shielded or special by the fact that biotechnology is in the zeitgeist: you aren't, and you won't be until much more work is accomplished. Give some thought to helping out: after all, your life is as much on the line as everyone else's."
WE DON'T NEED TO PERSUADE EVERYONE
A recent simulation of the way in which ideas spread through society reinforces what advocates already know: you don't need to persuade everyone. If only a minority, even just one in ten, support your vision then you can still achieve the end goal:
"Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion.
"Considering this, it doesn't do to become discouraged when you are rejected in an attempt to persuade a friend of the merits of supporting the SENS Foundation, or to give more thought to longevity science. It wouldn't matter if a majority of your friends rejected these ideas. So long as a solid minority of supporters can grow to that one in ten estimate, most of the world will eventually follow along. The research mentioned above may or may not be right in detail, but it's just another way of looking at the well known truths of advocacy: you don't need to get everyone on your side."
CALORIE RESTRICTION IMPROVES QUALITY OF LIFE
The calorie restricted life is a higher quality life, healthier and likely longer - though you wouldn't think that to listen to the complaints of people who've never seriously tried calorie restriction as a lifestyle:
"One of the common knee-jerk reactions to calorie restriction as a health practice is for people to think that it will make them unhappy: less food is equated with austerity, privation, misery and so forth. Perhaps this is a part of the unintentional indoctrination we all go through in our youth as a result of fiction and history lessons - for the vast majority of human history obtaining enough food was a continual struggle. Still, to equate calorie restriction with unhappiness is a naive view, held by people in the privileged position of being so wealthy in comparison to their ancestors that they can consistently overeat to the point of harming health and shortening life over the long term. This bottom line: what has come to pass for normal in the modern diet is in fact caloric overkill and then some, and indulging has measurable consequences in the form of poor health and higher risk of age-related and lifestyle diseases. Eating only what is optimal - considerably less that what is now normal in other words - is beneficial in comparison. It enhances some evolved responses in cellular housekeeping mechanisms, removes some of the harm done by eating too much, and generally improves matters. What's not to like?"
ALWAYS CONSIDER CALORIE RESTRICTION WHEN LOOKING AT RESEARCH
Whenever a new method is demonstrated to produce extended healthy life in mice or other laboratory animals, it is always worth checking to see if the researchers controlled for calorie intake. Calorie restriction can produce up to a 50% increase in life span in many lab species, and so even a modest reduction in calorie intake can extend life enough to be worth mentioning in a paper - but it won't be the direct result of the tested therapy. For example, many drugs and compounds make mice eat less for one reason or another. Here is an example of the type:
"So here we have [a] single gene manipulation that improves mood and neural function as well as modestly extending life ... We studied the effects of chronic alpha1AAR stimulation using transgenic mice engineered to express a constitutively active mutant (CAM). CAM-alpha1AAR mice showed enhancements in several behavioral models of learning and memory. ... [Wild type] mice treated with the alpha1AAR-selective agonist, cirazoline, also showed enhanced cognitive functions. ... If you look at the Wikipedia entry for cirazoline, you'll see: Cirazoline has also been shown to decrease food intake in rats, purportedly through activation of alpha 1-adrenoceptors."
So there you go - at least some of those benefits are most likely due to reduced calorie intake, and not manipulation of alpha1AAR.
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!
SEVERE CALORIE RESTRICTION IN RATS LEADS TO 50% LIFE EXTENSION
Friday, July 29, 2011
Here is a repetition of the sort of research from the last century that initially drew interest to calorie restriction, in which researchers are trying to pin down the point at which beneficial calorie restriction becomes harmful malnutrition: "It has been firmly established that the longevity of 20- to 60 %-calorie-restricted rodents, with malnutrition (essential nutrients deficiency) being avoided, is increased when compared to ad libitum fed rodents. However, the effects on life span of severe dietary restriction (i. e. malnutrition), with limited weight loss, remained unknown. The purpose of this 4-year study was to investigate the effects on longevity of a severe form of dietary restriction, with limited and controlled weight loss. To this end, a group of male Long-Evans rats severely dietary restricted (SDR group), with a weight loss throughout the experiment tryptophan, methionine, and fat, for example)."
CRYONICS IN THE UK PRESS
Friday, July 29, 2011
The recent cryosuspension of Robert Ettinger has led to a flurry of press articles; this is one of the better ones: "British photojournalist Murray Ballard, who has documented every aspect of cryonics there is to see (beyond the currently unachievable final stage, of course). Ballard's project began while he was studying photography at the University of Brighton, when he was inspired by the story of a French couple who had held hopes of being revived after their death; unfortunately the freezer storing their bodies broke down. Intrigued, the photographer's research led him first to a group of enthusiasts based just along the Sussex coast in Peacehaven, and before long he and his camera made their first trip to the three main cryonic storage sites in the US and Russia. There are around 1,000 people around the world like those in Peacehaven who have signed up to be preserved in the hope they can be reanimated in the future - with 459 having signed contracts with Ettinger's non-profit organisation - but Ballard says that most of those he has met understand it is very much an experimental and unproven science. ... During his project he paid two visits to Ettinger's institute, as well as three visits each to the KrioRus plant just outside Moscow, where another 15 'patients' are currently held in cryostasis, and the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona which holds 104. ... Essentially all you need is the brain. The theory is that the brain is like a hard drive that stores all your memories and your personality. When you are revived at some point in the distant future, a new body will be grown to house your brain, or an entirely new brain may be built for them to somehow upload your personality into it."
THE MECHANISMS OF REVERSING WORKING MEMORY DECLINE IN MONKEYS
Thursday, July 28, 2011
The Technology Review looks at the work of researchers attempting to restore youthful function in brain cells associated with memory: "By delivering a certain chemical to the brain, researchers could make neurons in old monkeys behave like those in young monkeys. Clinical trials of a generic drug that mimics this effect are already underway. The findings support the idea that some of the brain changes that occur with aging are very specific - rather than being caused by a general decay throughout the brain - and can potentially be prevented. [Researchers] recorded electrical activity from neurons in a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, a region especially vulnerable to aging in both humans and [other] primates. It is vital for our most high-level cognitive functions, such as working memory and the ability to multitask and inhibit distractions. ... neural circuits in this region are organized to create a sustained level of activity that is crucial for working memory. ... By analyzing activity recorded from young, middle-aged, and old monkeys, the researchers found that the firing rate of the neurons in this area declines with age. They found that other neurons, such as those that respond to cues in the environment, still fired normally even as the monkeys aged. ... The researchers were able to rein in the problem by treating the cells with a drug that blocks the potassium channels. After treatment, brain cells in old monkeys fired more rapidly - just like those in their younger counterparts. The researchers already knew that giving monkeys this drug systemically, rather than delivering it directly into the brain, could reverse age-related deficits in working memory. A clinical trial of the compound, a generic drug called guanfacine, originally used to treat hypertension, is underway."
WORKING ON KIDNEY REGENERATION
Thursday, July 28, 2011
VIa EurekAlert!: "Approximately 60 million people across the globe have chronic kidney disease, and many will need dialysis or a transplant. [Research] indicates that patients' own kidney cells can be gathered and reprogrammed. Reprogramming patients' kidney cells could mean that in the future, fewer patients with kidney disease would require complicated, expensive procedures that affect their quality of life. In the first study, [researchers] took cells from an individual's kidney and coaxed them to become progenitor cells, allowing the immature cells to form any type in the kidney. Specifically, they inserted several key reprogramming genes into the renal cells that made them capable of forming other cells. In a second study, [researchers] found that kidney cells collected from a patient's urine can also be reprogrammed in this way. Using cells from urine allows a technology easy to implement in a clinic setting. Even better, the urine cells could be frozen and later thawed before they were manipulated. If researchers can expand the reprogrammed cells - called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) - and return them to the patient, these IPSCs may restore the health and vitality of the kidneys. In addition to providing a potentially curative therapy for patients, the breakthroughs might also help investigators to study the causes of kidney disease and to screen new drugs that could be used to treat them."
UNIVERSAL DONOR IMMUNE CELLS IN CANCER IMMUNOTHERAPY
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Via ScienceDaily: "One of the latest attempts to boost the body's defenses against cancer is called adoptive cell transfer, in which patients receive a therapeutic injection of their own immune cells. This therapy, currently tested in early clinical trials for melanoma and neuroblastoma, has its limitations: Removing immune cells from a patient and growing them outside the body for future re-injection is extremely expensive and not always technically feasible. ... scientists have now tested in mice a new form of adoptive cell transfer, which overcomes these limitations while enhancing the tumor-fighting ability of the transferred cells. ... The new approach should be more readily applicable than existing adoptive cell transfer treatments because it relies on a donor pool of immune T cells that can be prepared in advance, rather than on the patient's own cells. Moreover, using a method pioneered [more] than two decades ago, these T cells are outfitted with receptors that specifically seek out and identify the tumor, thereby promoting its destruction. In the study, the scientists first suppressed the immune system of mice with a relatively mild dose of radiation. They then administered a controlled dose of the modified donor T cells. The mild suppression temporarily prevented the donor T cells from being rejected by the recipient, but it didn't prevent the cells themselves from attacking the recipient's body, particularly the tumor. This approach was precisely what rendered the therapy so effective: The delay in the rejection of the donor T cells gave these cells sufficient opportunity to destroy the tumor."
AEROBIC FITNESS IMPROVES THE AGING IMMUNE SYSTEM
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Another reason to exercise: "Senescent T-cells accumulate with age, lowering the naive T-cell repertoire and increasing host infection risk. As this response is likely to be influenced by certain lifestyle factors, we examined the association between aerobic fitness (VO(2max)) and the age-related accumulation of senescent T-cells. Blood lymphocytes from 102 healthy males (18-61yr) were analyzed for [marker] surface expression on CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells ... Advancing age (yr) was positively associated with the proportion (%) of senescent [and] CD8+ T-cells and inversely associated with naive CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells. VO(2max) was inversely associated with senescent CD4+ and CD8+. Strikingly, age was no longer associated with the proportions of senescent or naive T-cells after adjusting for VO(2max), while the association between VO(2max) and these T-cell subsets withstood adjustment for age, BMI and percentage body fat. Ranking participants by age-adjusted VO(2max) revealed that the highest tertile had had 17% more naive CD8+ T-cells and 57% and 37% less senescent CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells, respectively, compared to the lowest tertile. This is the first study to show that aerobic fitness is associated with a lower age-related accumulation of senescent T-cells, highlighting the beneficial effects of maintaining a physically active lifestyle on the aging immune system."
THE COMPLEXITIES OF P53 IN AGING AND LONGEVITY
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
An open access paper: "p53 plays a critical role in tumor suppression. As a transcription factor, in response to stress signals, p53 regulates its target genes and initiates stress responses, including cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, and/or senescence, to exert its function in tumor suppression. Emerging evidence has suggested that p53 is also an important but complex player in the regulation of aging and longevity in worms, flies, mice, and humans. Whereas p53 accelerates the aging process and shortens life span in some contexts, p53 can also extend life span in some other contexts. Thus, p53 appears to regulate aging and longevity in a context-dependent manner. Here, the authors review some recent advances in the study of the role of p53 in the regulation of aging and longevity in both invertebrate and vertebrate models. Furthermore, they discuss the potential mechanisms by which p53 regulates aging and longevity, including the p53 regulation of insulin/TOR signaling, stem/progenitor cells, and reactive oxygen species." You might recall that p53 was involved in one of the most effective methods of extending healthy and maximum life span in mice discovered to date.
VASCULAR CHANGES AND DEMENTIA GO HAND IN HAND
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Via ScienceDaily: "The same artery-clogging process (atherosclerosis) that causes heart disease can also result in age-related vascular cognitive impairments (VCI) ... Cognitive impairment, also known as dementia, includes difficulty with thinking, reasoning and memory, and can be caused by vascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, a combination of both and other causes. Atherosclerosis is a build- up of plaque in the arteries associated with elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking and other risk factors. When it restricts or blocks blood flow to the brain, it is called cerebrovascular disease, which can result in vascular cognitive impairment. ... We have learned that cerebrovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease may work together to cause cognitive impairment and the mixed disorder may be the most common type of dementia in older persons ... Treating risk factors for heart disease and stroke with lifestyle changes and medical management may prevent or slow the development of dementia in some people ... Physical activity, healthy diet, healthy body weight, tobacco avoidance as well as blood pressure and cholesterol management could significantly help many people maintain their mental abilities as they age." An unhealthy lifestyle corrodes the body and mind faster than would otherwise be the case. As we approach the era of age-reversing biotechnologies, it's worth thinking about how you might maximize your chance of reaching and benefiting from those years yet to come.
ATTENTION AND WHITE MATTER PATHOLOGY IN AGING
Monday, July 25, 2011
The mind decays in characteristic ways, and researchers are making inroads in linking the symptoms to the specific physical causes: "Advanced aging is associated with reduced attentional control and less flexible information processing. ... Older adults often perform poorly in situations where multiple goals and response rules must be maintained and coordinated ... Here, we explored age differences in recruitment of brain systems associated with attentional control and their relationship to behavior and markers of neuropathology. ... Examining 2 markers of preclinical pathology in older adults revealed that white matter hyperintensities (WMHs), but not high amyloid burden, were associated with failure to modulate activity in response to changing task demands. In contrast, high amyloid burden was associated with alterations in default network activity. ... These results, in addition to the rarity of co-occurrence between amyloid and white matter pathology among our sample of clinically normal adults, suggest that age-related cognitive failures may arise from multiple distinct pathologies. ... Age-related failures of dynamic allocation of attention may be an early consequence of disrupted neural integrity within prefrontal-parietal networks."
ROBERT ETTINGER CRYOPRESERVED
Monday, July 25, 2011
From the Washington Post: "Robert C. W. Ettinger, a physics teacher and science fiction writer who believed death is only for the unprepared and unimaginative, died July 23 at his home in Clinton Township, Mich. He was 92 and had suffered declining health in recent weeks, said his son David, who could not specify a cause. 'We're obviously sad,' said the younger Ettinger. But 'we were able to freeze him under optimum conditions, so he's got another chance.' Mr. Ettinger is widely considered the father of the cryonics movement, whose adherents believe they can achieve immortality through quick-freezing their bodies at death in anticipation of future resurrection. Mr. Ettinger's frozen body is being stored in a vat of liquid nitrogen at a nondescript building outside Detroit, home to more than 100 fellow immortalists - including his mother and two wives - who are awaiting revival. If all goes as Mr. Ettinger envisioned, he will remain in a period of icy stasis for decades - or perhaps centuries - however long it takes for doctors, armed with technology of the future, to defrost him and restore him to good health. ... Mr. Ettinger was a little-known community college professor in the mid-1960s when he wrote the founding document of cryonics, 'The Prospect of Immortality,' a manifesto that described the practical and moral aspects of deep-freezing the dead. Introducing what he called the Freezer Era, Mr. Ettinger described a world in which people would become nobler and more responsible as they were confronted with the reality of living forever." It is important to note that cryonics nowadays is less about freezing and more about vitrification: ice crystal formation is minimized amd thus so is cellular damage.