Longevity Meme Newsletter, August 11 2003

Reason reason at longevitymeme.org
Thu Aug 14 05:21:33 EST 2003


LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
August 11 2003

The Longevity Meme Newsletter is a biweekly 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. To subscribe or
unsubscribe from the Longevity Meme Newsletter, please visit
http://www.longevitymeme.org/newsletter/.

______________________________

HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION AND TRANSHUMANISM

You may have noticed references to Transhumanism here and there on the
Longevity Meme. There are links to Transhumanist websites on the home
page and Transhumanist resources listed in our Resources section. What
is Transhumanism and how is it applicable to healthy life extension?

Transhumanism is an offshoot or extension of Humanism, so we should
certainly look at Humanism first. Humanism is an influential,
time-honored philosophy that argues for certain fundamental human
rights, freedoms and responsibilities. Humanism endorses the values of
humane societies, built on reason and free inquiry. In terms of
addressing everyday life, Humanist philosophy attempts to answer
questions like:

- How should we behave toward one another? 
- What is the best way to live within the constraints imposed on us by
the human condition?

In essence, Humanism tells us: "We're all in the same boat here: by
all means work towards your dreams, but be nice to your neighbor and
don't tread on anyone's toes."

What is Transhumanism, and how does it differ from the Humanism that
came before it? Transhumanism is philosophy of life; an evolving,
debated collection of ideas, just like Humanism. Transhumanism builds
on Humanist concepts by embracing progress. Transhumanism endorses the
idea that humanity can, and should, strive to higher levels,
physically, mentally and socially.

Transhumanism tells us: "While being nice and not treading on toes,
the dreams we work towards can include a fleet of better boats for all
of us."

Transhumanism is closely tied to an enthusiasm for ethical,
responsible technological progress. This progress brings greater
choice and options for improving the human condition. This is really
nothing new: we have been doing just that for ages with fire, farming,
steam, bicycles, antibiotics, vaccines, dental prosthesis, cell
phones, and so forth. Each of these technologies enables us to
overcome limits and by doing so improve our lives.
 
Given the emphasis that Transhumanism places on progress and
overcoming the limitations that make life difficult at times, it is
only natural that transhumanists support and encourage healthy life
extension. Aging and age-related disease takes a terrible toll on us
all; these are important, fundamental, terrible limits for us to
strive against and eventually overcome. Transhumanism and advocacy for
healthy life extension have gone hand-in-hand since the 1980s. At that
time, few people took life extension research seriously and it was
very much more fringe than it is now, both in academia and the medical
research community.

Most influential transhumanist thinkers have written on the subject of
life extension at some point in time, and many have done so
extensively. Some of their introductory essays are republished on the
Longevity Meme, in fact.

http://www.longevitymeme.org/articles/

When you read about current aging research, progress in understanding
the genetics of aging and scientists working towards medicine for
healthy life extension, remember that groups of outspoken
transhumanists have been working towards greater awareness of - and
funding for - this field of research for the past 20 years. We owe
them our thanks and support.

You can find out more about Transhumanism and transhumanist interest
groups by following the links in the Longevity Meme resource section:

http://www.longevitymeme.org/links/viewlinkgroup.cfm?id=5

THE NAME RECOGNITION GAME

Fresh articles on cryonics and the Alcor Life Extension Foundation are
still cropping up in the media with some regularity. Here is the
latest, a well-balanced, informative piece:

http://www.berkshireeagle.com/Stories/0,1413,101~6295~1549502,00.html

Cryonics is mentioned in baseball commentaries, op-ed columns, as
filler on late night shows. Search on Google News for "cryonics" -
you'll see what I mean. All this is due to the cryonic suspension last
year of someone famous: Ted Williams.

Given all the attention, wouldn't it just be wonderful to have some
famed individual espouse calorie restriction, talk about healthy life
extension, or advocate stem cell medicine? Actually, as it happens, we
already do have a famous name supporting stem cell research and
regenerative medicine. Christopher Reeve has been mentioned here
before in the context of his untiring advocacy over the past year. We
encourage you to let him know how much we appreciate his efforts:

http://www.longevitymeme.org/projects/support_christopher_reeve.cfm

Reeve has been in Israel recently, as that country has a very strong
stem cell research community. In the US, Reeve speaks out against
existing and proposed government restrictions on stem cell and
theraputic cloning research. These are the technologies that will lead
to a cure for spinal injuries and regenerative therapies for damaged
organs and degenerative diseases of aging.  These are the technologies
that will give us longer, healthier lives.

Every time Christopher Reeve gets column inches in the media, it helps
to build a more positive environment in the US for this research. It's
hard for politicians to tell a famous, respected, well-liked person
that research to cure their condition will be banned - and that is
fortunate for the rest of us.

FIN

That's all for my commentary this time: a news roundup for the past
two weeks follows below.

DISCUSSION

Have comments for us, or want to discuss the newsletter? Visit the
Longevity Meme forum at http://www.longevitymeme.org/forum.cfm, or
send e-mail to newsletter at longevitymeme.org.

Reason
reason at longevitymeme.org
Founder, Longevity Meme
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RECENT NEWS

Another Way For Stem Cells To Regenerate Damaged Hearts (August 11
2003)
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=570&ncid=753&e=2&u=/nm/20030810/sc_nm/science_cells_dc
(From Yahoo! News). Hot on the heels of a recent successful human
trial of a stem-cell based therapy for heart damage (that was promptly
stopped by the FDA), here is news of research on another way of
achieving the same result. A number of different research teams are
all attempting to use stem cells as the basis for true regenerative
medicine. Cheap, widely-available medicine that can regenerate damaged
or age-weakened vital organs is the end goal of this research; this
would certainly lead to longer, healthier lives.

Cryonics and the Name Recognition Factor (August 09 2003)
http://www.berkshireeagle.com/Stories/0,1413,101~6295~1549502,00.html
An article from the Berkshire Eagle is a good illustration of the
benefits of name recognition to Alcor. The cryonic suspension provider
has been getting a lot more press since taking on Ted Williams, a
famed baseball player. Cryonics is valuable: the current indications
are that we as a society are within decades of fighting aging to a
standstill. For many people, however, this is not soon enough. Their
only hope for a longer life is to take the chance on cryonic
suspension.

Interview with Max More (August 09 2003)
http://www.nanomagazine.com/2002_07_13
Nanomagazine is carrying an interview with Max More, founder of the
Extropy Institute. He and the Institute have been bullish on healthy
life extension and medical research for decades. Alongside the Life
Extension Foundation, the Institute was one of the earliest serious
promoters of life extension concepts and activism. This interview
covers a range of transhumanist and futurist topics, and a discussion
on life extension and current advances in medicine occurs closer to
the end. Readers who are interested in learning more about the support
given to healthy life extension by the transhumanist philosophy and
movement can find resources for further reading here at the Longevity
Meme.

The Missing Stem Cell Debate (August 08 2003)
http://www.gbn.com/ArticleDisplayServlet.srv?aid=4500
Here's an article from earlier in the year at GBN. It carries a
strong, simple explanation of the damage currently being done by
current and pending restrictions on stem cell research in the US (not
to mention the threat of criminalization and outright bans). Some
what-if questions applied to the microprocessor revolution of the 80s
clearly show what we have to lose if we do not speak out in support of
fundamental research into stem cell medicine. It is our best shot at
real, near-term regenerative and healthy life extension medicine.

Regenerative Medicine For Stroke Damage (August 07 2003)
http://www.medinews.com/GMEDTS32olcgi/ts.cgi?tsurl=0.52.9730.0.0
A short article at Medinews.com notes research success in a simple
stem cell therapy to regenerate stroke damage in rats. This is very
similar to a therapy for heart damage that was trialed successfully in
humans earlier in the year (before being halted by an overzealous
FDA). This first generation of simple stem cell therapies, in which
the stem cells are more or less just injected into the patient and
left to their own devices, are proving very promising. We could
certainly see widely-available therapies by the end of the decade,
assuming that the US government and others refrain from banning this
vital medical technology.

Old Worms, New Aging Genes (August 07 2003)
http://www.sciencenews.org/20030802/bob9.asp
>From Science News Online, a very readable piece on the last decade of
research into the genes that control aging in the humble worm. This
work has had an enormous impact and is arguably responsible for the
current wide range of studies on the genetics of aging and healthy
life extension. These methuselah worms are the start of a process that
will lead to gene-based healthy life extension therapies for humans.
We need to be supporting researchers rather than legislating their
research out of existence!

A Fix for Aging Eyes (August 06 2003)
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994025
The New Scientist reports on work aimed at a low-cost fix for the most
common consequence of aging in human eyes. Progress in prosthetics and
materials science are opening the door to a wide range of effective
repairs to the human body. This field of study is advancing in step
with stem cell medicine and other regenerative research strategies.
These are the small steps that are essential to obtaining longer,
healthier lives for all. One bit at a time, not all at once, is the
way progress happens. Fixing aging eyes has been a topic much in the
news of late; this is the fourth potential therapy for age-related eye
conditions I've seen mentioned in recent months.

Interview With Aubrey de Grey (August 06 2003)
http://www.speculist.com/archives/000056.html
Aubrey de Grey is an aging researcher of note and one of the founders
of the Methuselah Mouse Prize project. The Speculist is currently
running an interview with de Grey on his views and work relating to
understanding aging and enabling healthy life extension. Well worth
reading to see what people on the front lines of research are
thinking. A quote: "What Aubrey has to say is explosive - aging is
curable. The answer will soon be in our grasp if we devote the
necessary resources to going after it."

Genetic Research For Longer Life (August 05 2003)
http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/techscience/story/0,4386,203181,00.html
>From the Straits Times, a good general interest article on genetics
research aimed at giving us all much, much longer, healther lives. It
is very encouraging that media worldwide are showing an interest in
the prospects offered by current research. From the article: "I am
absolutely convinced we are going to be able to extend human life," Dr
Johnson says. "This is not science fiction." Now if we could just
convince the US and European governments to stop trying to ban and
criminalize this vital research, things would be looking promising
indeed.

Exercise and Take Supplements (August 04 2003)
http://www.breakthroughdigest.com/cgi-script/csNews/csNews.cgi?database=Aging%2edb&command=viewone&id=17&op=t
>From Breakthrough Digest, an article that reminds us of the
importance of exercise and vitamin supplements, especially as we age.
While looking ahead to the future of healthy life extension medicine,
we must also take care of our bodies here and now. Fortunately it's
not hard. Based on decades of scientific studies, the simple trio of
calorie restriction, modest exercise and supplements appears to be the
way to go. Everything else you see advertised or read about is either
still in development or substantially less certain in the eyes of
science. Read more about this in our introduction to healthy life
extension.

Moving in the Right Direction (August 04 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/Features/Columns/Forward_Thinking/column.aspx?articleID=2003-08-04-2
Simon Smith's column at Betterhumans this week is an interesting
commentary on the polarization of views on life extension in the
media. Most of what you read is overly optimistic or overly
pessimistic. As Simon Smith points out, it is important to focus on
overall progress in research rather than the up and down of individual
articles. Personally, I think it's wonderful that we can be commenting
on life extension in mainstream media at all.

Understanding Cell Signalling Vital to Many New Therapies (August 03
2003)
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-08/mcog-scd073003.php
One of the important unifying threads in current medical research (as
illustrated by this EurekAlert article) is the discovery and
understanding of basic biochemical signalling processes with cells.
Getting a handle on a specific signal is the first step to devising a
therapy. In this case, it is signals regulating embryonic stem cell
death, and researcher are clearly excited about the potential for
therapies for neurodegenerative diseases of aging such as Alzheimer's.
These are all small, important steps on the road to medicine that will
lengthen and improve our healthy lifespan.

A View of the Fight Against Aging (August 03 2003)
http://globeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20030803.wmeth0803/BNStory/Front/
The Globe and Mail is running a good general interest article on
researchers and progress in the fight against aging. Progress is both
medical and in changing atttitudes towards aging; seeing it as a
treatable (and ultimately curable) medical condition, rather than as
something that simply is. Many of the recent developments in aging and
healthy life extension research are touched on, and some notables who
oppose extending human life are quoted too. A quote: "for the first
time in human history, an intense and methodical quest is under way to
turn off aging with proven science, instead of snake oil."

Genetics of Longevity, A Long Haul Yet (August 03 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-08-01-2
This article from Betterhumans demonstrates that a complete genetic
understanding of longevity is still a long way away. We've learned so
many important things, many of which will lead to therapies, but there
is so much yet to do. In many ways, modern genetics is a field just
getting underway now that the proper tools - fast computers, better
materials science - are in hand. Genetics is a vastly important field,
but stem cell medicine (and its intersection with genetics) seems to
offer a better chance of quick payoffs and effective therapies for
healthy life extension in the near future.

Site Outage: We're Back Up Again (August 03 2003)
http://www.longevitymeme.org
Apologies for the two day downtime; our host had something of a router
meltdown. As long-time readers will know, hosting the Longevity Meme
seems to have been the kiss of death for many providers. We've moved
four times in the past two years, far above the average. We've been
happy with the present provider (Chicago Webs) up until this point, so
hopefully things will get back to the normal level of fine service in
the future.

Regenerative Stem Cell Research Aims at Diabetes Cure (July 30 2003)
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/07/030730080701.htm
(From ScienceDaily). Stem cell based regenerative medicine offers
potential cures for a wide range of conditions. Diabetes is one of
these; in this case a cure would consist of producing new pancreatic
tissue for the patient. Researchers are far along in the process of
understanding how to do this. Just like cancer, diabetes as a life
threatening condition appears to be on a short clock. All this
research depends, of course, on the US government not enacting a ban
on these technologies. The current administration has already slowed
research with ill-advised legislation. Remember: you can do something
about this!

Helping the Brain to Regenerate (July 30 2003)
http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-07-30-1
Betterhumans talks about recent work on a new way to help the brain
regenerate damage from stroke or neurodegenerative disorders such as
Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease. This is
comparatively low-tech - simply blocking a key chemical involved in
regulating neural growth - and is not a path to real cures. However,
researchers would not be able to make this leap without the tremendous
advances in medical technology and biochemistry over the past decade.
The more we learn, the more we can do. Articles like this are very
encouraging.

Common Mechanisms in Cancer and Aging (July 29 2003)
http://www.sagecrossroads.com/news.cfm
The latest news article at SAGE Crossroads is a helpful high-level
overview of recent research on the common ground shared by cancer and
aging in the body. Scientists have made amazing progress in the past
few years in uncovering the complex biochemical mechanisms of both
cancer and aging, and we see the two ever more entangled the more we
dig. Understanding always leads to the ability to act, however.
Researchers will soon be able to use this new knowledge to develop far
more effective therapies in the fight against cancer, and the first
true therapies in the fight against aging.

AFAR Gets Wider Exposure (July 29 2003)
http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/030729/dctu018_1.html
The Alliance for Aging Research is getting better exposure these days,
as this press release/article at Yahoo! News shows. AFAR does a very
good job in the sort of advocacy that supports the advance of medical
science for longer, healthier lives. They are more mainstream than
most of the healthy life extension crowd, of course, but organizations
like this play an important role in fighting to improve our future
health and longevity.

Some Sensible Advice on Health and Aging (July 28 2003)
http://www.canada.com/edmonton/edmontonjournal/story.asp?id=96FE5B07-69F4-4911-AEEE-E0034067902E
There's no such thing as too many articles that hit all the sensible,
obvious, smart points about maintaining long term health. Here's one
from the Edmonton Journal. You only get one body to make it through
the next few decades of medical advances in regenerative medicine, so
it's best to take good care of yourself. Lose weight, exercise, take
supplements, practice calorie restriction and keep up a good
relationship with a physician you trust. Young or old, it's the
simple, obvious things that will keep you alive and well to benefit
from the future of healthy life extension and advancing medical
science.

Reeve Advocates Research in Israel (July 28 2003)
http://news.ninemsn.com.au/Entertainment/story_50596.asp
Christopher Reeve, movie star, vocal advocate for stem cell research
and the potential of regenerative medicine, will be in Israel this
week. (Article found via Transhumanity). There, he will speak out in
support of Israeli medical researchers and the progress they have made
in pushing the frontiers of the field. Reeve is one of the best known
research advocates in the US today. He is understandably critical of
US government efforts to slow and even criminalize the research that
will lead to cures for his and many other conditions. His advocacy for
better medicine benefits all of us too: you should certainly thank him
for it.

______________________________

Do you have comments for us, or want to discuss the newsletter? Visit
the Longevity Meme forum at http://www.longevitymeme.org/forum.cfm, or
send e-mail to newsletter at longevitymeme.org.





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