Longevity Meme Newsletter, March 22 2004

Reason reason at longevitymeme.org
Tue Apr 6 06:04:50 EST 2004

March 22 2004

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
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- Ever Wonder What the Community Looks Like?
- Join the Three Hundred to Fight Aging
- Why Donate to the Methuselah Foundation?
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension News Headlines


It isn't quite living color, I'll admit, but this map of the healthy
life extension community does look pretty in the right light. If
you've ever wanted to know more about how the community holds
together, who the members are, and where to find them, then now is
your chance.


I hope that this helps many people skip over the slow process of
digging up this information the hard way. Life is always easier with a
map in hand.


The Methuselah Foundation have launched an intriguing new initiative:
for the price of a cup of coffee per day, would you like to join a
select group of humanitarians who will be remembered for their vision
and saving millions of lives?


The group is called "The Three Hundred" in honor of those who stood at
Thermopylae in ancient Greece. The Three Hundred won time; time that
allowed the Greeks to achieve a great victory in the course of
defending their homes, lives and lands. The modern Three Hundred will,
through modest donations and the work of the Methuselah Foundation,
win time for scientists to fight and defeat the aging process itself.
As the Methuselah Foundation asks:

"What is it worth to you to live 150 healthy years? What is it worth
to you to raise the average human lifespan to 150 years, just as a

The first members of the Three Hundred have stepped forward to make
their pledges, myself amongst them. You can make a real, tangible
difference to the future of healthy life extension medicine by doing
the same. Find out more about the work of the Methuselah Foundation
(including the Methuselah Mouse Prize for anti-aging research) at the
following website:



Like the X Prize, the Methuselah Mouse Prize (administered by the
Methuselah Foundation) is one of the most exciting efforts in its
field. I recommend reading comments by supporting donors and the first
members of The Three Hundred; they will certainly make you think about
priorities and what will soon be possible in medical science.


In particular, the thoughts of David Thompson spring to mind.

"I am a funeral director by trade and have seen more than my share of
death. It is never pretty, and some of the things I have seen are
terrifying. If you have ever thought about how peaceful someone looked
in a casket, let me let you in on a little secret, they didn't look
that way before we embalmed them. I have yet to pick someone up from
the morgue that looked glad to be there.

"The day will come for most of us when death approaches and we will go
through a list of things we wish we had done. If only I had started my
diet earlier, why didn't I keep my new years resolution to exercise?
Don't let wishing you had donated to the Methuselah Mouse Prize be one
of the last things that goes through your mind.

"Before you know it one of my friends or I will be coming for you, put
us out of work before we do."

As David points out, death and the degenerative conditions associated
with aging are not noble, pretty, dignified or desirable. This
horrible outcome happens to everyone, but the medical research and
funding communities have not yet fully risen to the challenge. We must
fight to support the advance of real anti-aging science, as by raising
awareness we can open the funding floodgates. This happened in the
1970s for cancer research, and it is happening now for Alzheimer's
research. Efforts like the Methuselah Mouse Prize are one of the best
ways forward to the creation of a fully funded anti-aging research
industry based on serious science.

Serious science could cure aging in our lifetimes: we just have to
unlock the public support and resources to make this happen. You can
read more about the science and one plan to beat aging at the
Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) website, run by
Aubrey de Grey.



That would be all for this issue of the newsletter. The highlights and
headlines from the past two weeks follow below. If you have comments
for us, please do send e-mail to newsletter at longevitymeme.org.

Remember - if you like this newsletter, the chances are that your
friends will find it useful too. Forward the newsletter 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

reason at longevitymeme.org
Founder, Longevity Meme



Tissue Engineering for the Eye (March 21 2004)
CORDIS reports on a new EU funded effort to tissue engineer corneal
replacements. It's a good example of the sort of incremental
improvement in medical technology that we will see thousands of times
over in years to come. As an interesting aside, the article points out
that being able to engineer new body parts has implications beyond
transplantation. Research and tests currently performed on animal
subjects and human volunteers could instead be performed on isolated
organs grown specifically for that purpose. This should encourage some
previously opposed groups to support these medical advances.

Building New Organs For Transplant (March 21 2004)
The Jewish World Review is carrying a good introductory article on the
current state of the art in tissue engineering. As the author points
out, a large number of people die waiting for organ transplants each
year, although that is as much the fault of government regulation as
it is of inadequate medical technology. A number of different
approaches are underway to ensure that organs can be cultured on
demand, including the use of biodegradable scaffolds, ink jet
printers, and stem cells. There is a fair way to go yet, but the field
is clearly advancing rapidly despite the damaging effects of
regulation on stem cell research.

Disposable Soma Theory of Aging (March 21 2004)
Stuff has published an examination of the disposable soma theory of
aging, complete with a description of the bathtime eureka moment.
While widely accepted now, this theory was fairly revolutionary at the
time (the late 1970s). From the article: "Ageing is simply a matter of
cumulative damage done to the relatively more vulnerable soma cells.
In fact, if we can discover just how this damage occurs, we could
learn the secret of much longer life." Scientists are working on that
now, as it happens. You might also want to read a previous article
that expands on this theory to explain why we live for so long after
ceasing to reproduce.

Jeopardizing Stem Cell Possibilities (March 20 2004)
A great column at Madison.com looks at the damage being done to vital
stem cell research by politicians and interest groups. It is
instructive to look back at important historical medical advances -
such as penicillin, for example - and wonder what would have happened
had they occurred in a hostile, anti-research political climate. Here
is a quote that reflects our feelings here at the Longevity Meme: "The
vital progression of this science has been drastically delayed, and
with it, the research into possible cures for a broad spectrum of
diseases including Alzheimer's, diabetes and Parkinson's. ... The
politicians and the contingent of fundamentalist pro-lifers who oppose
stem cell research in the U.S. should be ashamed."

Pentagon Funds Stem Cell Research (March 20 2004)
The Pentagon and other branches of the US military actually fund a
fair amount of medical research, but recent news that the Pentagon was
funding stem cell research raised a few eyebrows. As it turns out,
initial reports misrepresented the nature and scope of the work. As
reported by the Genome News Network, this Parkinson's-related research
is within the bounds of current restrictive US policy. Researchers are
using two existing Swedish embryonic stem cell lines rather than
creating new ones, and the level of funding is not large.

Help To Expand Stem Cell Research (March 19 2004)
Christopher Reeve is asking people like you and I to write to the
President and our elected representatives in support of stem cell
research. The diplomatic phrasing here is "expand stem cell research."
In reality, they mean "stop blocking stem cell research." Existing and
threatened anti-research legislation is the root cause of the woeful
lack of progress and funding for this vital field of medicine.
Government funding is blocked and private funding scared away by the
prospect of even more restrictive legislation. You can use the online
CRPF system to quickly and easily make your opinions on this matter
known. The future of your health and longevity is on the line, so
speak up now!

Biotech Will Extend Healthy Life Span (March 19 2004)
The mainstream press is starting to catch on to the link between
regenerative medicine and healthy life extension. This piece from the
Miami Herald quotes Kent Vrana, pharmacology department chair at Penn
State University: "Organ-replacement technology could boost the human
life span to about 150 years." Using regenerative medicine and tissue
engineering to build replacement organs on demand is the brute force,
expensive, near term approach to extending healthy life span - if it's
broken, buy a new one. Preventative therapies to block the aging
process will likely be far cheaper and more effective in the long run,
but the scientific community has a long way to go to develop this sort
of technology.

Massachusetts Joins the Party (March 18 2004)
A short item in the Boston Herald notes that efforts are underway to
make Massachusetts the third US state to allow and endorse stem cell
research. Advanced Cell Technology is in Massachusetts, and you may
recall that Harvard University is currently working to establish a
large stem cell center. Robert Lanza of ACT is quoted in the piece:
"This is an exciting time in the stem cell field and we'd really like
to see Massachusetts step up to the plate. Why should we leave it to
other states to make a statement?" If you're new to this whole stem
cell business, read the introduction at InfoAging to see why this
research is so vital to future health and longevity.

German Politicians Still Banning Stem Cell Research (March 18 2004)
BioMed Central reports that stem cell research is still effectively
banned in Germany, with no real signs of change soon. After all, why
should German politicians oppose local anti-research special interests
when they can just let researchers in other countries do the work?
Unfortunately, far too many politicians in far too many countries
think this way. Not just for stem cell research, either: many areas of
medical progress are held back by restrictive European-style
legislation. Untold suffering results from these short-sighted
policies, but all too few people seem to care enough to step up and
make a difference.

Canada Bill Prohibits Therapeutic Cloning (March 17 2004)
Apparently I was correct in assuming that the Canadian bill on stem
cell research (and just about everything else that could be crammed in
there) was not necessarily good for science. Wired notes that the bill
prohibits therapeutic cloning. Since all the most promising stem cell
research relies on therapeutic cloning, this means that little
meaningful research into regenerative medicine will be occurring in
Canada. This state of affairs is similar to the regulatory shackles
that prevent meaningful research in much of Europe. It's sickening
that politicians spend so much effort to prevent better medicine from
being developed. Take action!

Reminder: Exercise is Essential (March 17 2004)
Just occasionally, we like to pour on the common sense. Here, the
Baltimore Sun reports on a study demonstrating yet more benefits from
a program of moderate exercise. Age-related decline is much more
pronounced in inactive people, and excess weight has been demonstrated
to be bad for you in far too many ways to list here. If you want to
live healthily - and live long enough to benefit from the healthy life
extension medicine of the near future - then you need to be looking
after your natural longevity. This isn't rocket science, folks! An
ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, and working to
produce good health in years to come is just as important as preparing
for your future financial needs.

More on Regenerative Medicine For Hair (March 17 2004)
ScienceDaily reports on further advances in the use of stem cells to
regenerate hair follicles. As I've noted here previously, the hair
restoration industry has been one of the few vanity industries to
contribute meaningful funding to regenerative medicine. There are a
strong financial and competitive incentives for companies in this
industy to produce effective methods of hair regeneration - and those
research efforts will benefit the wider fields of regenerative
medicine and stem cell research. Now if only all the worthless pill
and potion merchants elsewhere would take note and start in on real,
worthwhile medical research in their own fields ... but I'm not
holding my breath on that one.

Calorie Restriction Lowers Cancer Risk (March 16 2004)
A WebMD article comments on recent work that reinforces the science
behind the protective effects of calorie restriction. This isn't
really news to anyone who has been following CR science for a while:
low calorie diets have long been shown to protect against cancer in
animals. In addition, a wealth of data exists to link human obesity -
or even just excess weight - to greatly increased risk for cancer (as
well as just about every other unpleasant age-related condition you
can think of). If you haven't done so already, I think you owe it to
yourself to look into calorie restriction. Improve your longevity and
you'll be more likely to benefit from the future of real anti-aging

The Calorie Restriction Guide Online (March 16 2004)
Have you taken time to look at the new CR Society website? The latest
version is much improved, good looking and graceful. Congratulations
to the developers for a job well done. If you are thinking about
taking up calorie restriction to help optimize your natural longevity,
the CR Society online guide is well worth reading. The new site makes
it much easier to find other goodies like book reviews, an community
resource for recipies, and the community e-mail lists. If you have
questions about CR, just join up and ask - the community is friendly
and helpful.

On Raising Life Expectancy (March 15 2004)
(From the Baltimore Sun). Life expectancy has been rising with the
advance of medical technology throughout the 20th century.
Conservative gerontologists like Jay Olshansky - who seem to believe
that we cannot address the underlying aging process - believe this
rate of increase will slow and stop. Forward looking scientists like
Aubrey de Grey are working to build a far better future, however.
Aging is simply damage to the body, and this can in principle be
repaired - all we have to do is to direct sufficient resources to
solving this problem. Progress in regenerative medicine is a good
start, but there is far more work to be done on medical science,
activism and education.

Join The Three Hundred (March 15 2004)
The Three Hundred is the latest initiative undertaken by the
Methuselah Foundation, administrators of the Methuselah Mouse Prize.
How much is a greatly extended healthy life span worth to you? Is it
worth the small effort to pledge a few dollars a day to help medical
science advance towards understanding and eventually curing aging? I
think so, and others agree. Now you can show your support by becoming
a member of The Three Hundred, a group of visionary humanists who will
make a real difference to the future of aging research and healthy
life extension. As someone who values a longer, healthier life, isn't
it time to make the commitment?

Not To Be Outdone (March 14 2004)
In the wake of the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative,
which aims at $3 billion in state funding for research, a New Jersey
legislator is talking about raising another $3 billion through a
non-profit endowment foundation. Stem cell research, as I'm sure
you're all aware by now, is almost certainly the best hope for near
term healthy life extension technologies. The healthy human life span
can be extended by repairing age-related damage, or by preventing it.
Regenerative medicine aims at repair. This field shows great promise
as a path to curing all of worst diseases and degenerative conditions
of aging.

Searching for New Sources of Stem Cells (March 14 2004)
EurekAlert reports on a small step forward in the search for
alternative sources of stem cells. A number of different groups are
working on ways to make cells in the body reverse their differention
to become stem cells or some other form of progenitor cells. The
regenerative abilities of some lizards seems to depend on this or a
similar process, for example, but scientists are still working their
way towards establishing a basic understanding in this area. We just
don't know what is possible in humans, and thus embryonic stem cell
research is still vitally important to progress. You can read up on
stem cells at InfoAging, a very good resource for this sort of

Betterhumans Sponsors the Methuselah Mouse Prize (March 13 2004)
Betterhumans, a popular online transhumanist magazine, has officially
announced its sponsorship of the Methuselah Mouse Prize for anti-aging
research. You may have noticed that the current prize cash total now
graces the left column of the Betterhumans home page. The Methuselah
Foundation is doing well with the mouse prize; it's nearing $50,000 in
cash and more than $200,000 in pledges thanks to the new Three Hundred
membership inititive. Research prizes are have demonstrated their
worth in advancing scientific progress over and over again throughout
history. Have you donated to the Methuselah Mouse Prize yet? You
should - it will make a big difference to the future of your health
and longevity.

Regenerative Medicine Heats Up (March 13 2004)
As illustrated by this Yahoo! News article, the mainstream press is
starting to see the connection between the growing, respected field of
regenerative medicine and healthy life extension. The piece also
mentions some of the ways in which researchers are trying to make an
end-run around the need for embryonic stem cells. It is said that
revolutionary breakthroughs tend to happen 50 years after people stop
laughing about the possibility. I'm not hearing laughter these days,
and I think we can do a lot better than 50 years to reach working
anti-aging medicine - assuming that everyone knuckles down and works

Canada Finally Passes Stem Cell Bill (March 12 2004)
While we're on the subject, the Canadian Senate has finally (after
almost a decade) passed a controversial bill on reproductive
technology. It's a very broad bill, but does permit heavily regulated
embryonic stem cell research. Unfortunately, like all bills spending a
long time in consideration, it appears to have everything but the
kitchen sink attatched to it. It comes complete with all sorts of
restrictions, and so it remains to be seen as to whether it will
perform as advertised. The cynic writing this post has his doubts -
regulation and price controls are not compatible with rapid progress
in medical science.

Minnesota Moving Towards Stem Cell Research (March 12 2004)
A bill to "permit and regulate" embryonic stem cell research is making
its way through the legislative process in Minnesota. The normal,
flawed  arguments are heard from the anti-research side of the debate.
A common, and very insulting, view appears to be that the scientific
community will race off to immediately do whatever implausible act it
is that the anti-research speaker fears the most. This is nonsense:
scientists, just like all of the rest of us who have our heads screwed
on right, want to do good work, cure disease and extend the healthy
human life span. Knee-jerk reactions to change and new science are not
helpful and just harm everyone in the long run.

Evolutionary Explanation for Human Longevity (March 11 2004)
One problem facing evolutionary theories that explain the
characteristics of human aging is the fact that we continue to live
for so long after we can't reproduce. As noted by Betterhumans, a new
study offers a plausible explanation for this longevity. As a social
species, we continue to help our genes spread even when we can no
longer reproduce. There's more to it than that, of course, but the
details given in the article are fairly convincing. It certainly
merits further work and investigation. This doesn't get us any closer
to curing aging, of course, but there's no such thing as useless
information in the larger picture.

Alcor Legislative Alert For March 11th (March 11 2004)
You can't trust politicians. From Alcor: "Up to this point, Alcor has
negotiated in good faith with Representative Stump, attempting to
draft legislation that would address his concerns for the protection
of the citizens of Arizona as well as protect the rights of our
members and patients. ... In spite of our conciliatory actions and
assumption of good intentions on the part of Representative Stump, he
has decided to move forward with a House vote on his bill TOMORROW
(the 11th) without allowing the affected parties to complete
negotiations." The Alcor CEO urges you all to send a message to the
Arizona legislature before or on the 11th: "Alcor Life Extension
Foundation urges you to vote NO on HB2637. This bill is a solution
without a problem."

Blood Vessel Advances in Tissue Engineering (March 10 2004)
EurekAlert reports on another important advance in tissue engineering
technology. Culturing blood vessels is an essential component of being
able to build working organs (or indeed almost any meaningful amount
of tissue). With advances in biodegradable scaffolding to control the
shape and size of engineered tissue, the ability to grow blood vessels
to order is needed for further progress towards complete organs. This
branch of regenerative medicine shows real potential to extend healthy
life span by repairing damage caused by aging and age-related

Roots of the Stem Cell Controversy (March 10 2004)
The USF Oracle is carrying an overview of the current science of stem
cell research and the associated debate. The piece includes quotes
from the various sides of the fence, as well as a short history of
related science, legislation and politics in the US. Reading this and
then proceeding to Ronald Bailey's latest piece on "moral vertigo" at
Reason Online would be a good introduction for someone who hasn't been
following the issues. The anti-research side of the debate have
succeeded in greatly slowing research in the US and Europe. You and I
wind up paying the price for their opinions in a currency of life span
and health.

Third Silver Fleece Award Presented (March 09 2004)
The Age reports on the third annual Silver Fleece award, given out by
Jay Olshansky at the International Conference on Longevity in Sydney.
It's intended to highlight "the most ridiculous, outrageous,
scientifically unsupported or exaggerated assertions about intervening
in aging." As I've mentioned in the past, there is a complex,
many-pointed war of words and funding underway between factions in the
billion dollar "anti-aging" marketplace, factions in the scientific
and medical communities, and other groups less easily categorized.
This merits a longer analysis at some point, but you can find a taste
of it in a recent Telegraph article and a disgruntled A4M press

The Personal Side of Calorie Restriction (March 09 2004)
Connecting names and faces with the practice of calorie restriction
(CR) seems to be a trend in the media at the moment; this example is
from the Washington Times. There are some interesting comments in
there, such as: "The truth of the matter is, I don't think CR is a
good way to extend life, but it is the best way right now." This is
true in a sense, but CR does provide demonstrated health benefits and
is a good way to help maximize your natural health and longevity. CR
cannot extend this maximized natural life span by decades (or more),
however, which is why healthy life extension places such great
emphasis on supporting and advancing medical research into real
anti-aging therapies.

Attempting to Remove Bad Legislation (March 08 2004)
As reported at Madison.com, opponents of current anti-research
legislation are on the move again. From the article: "U.S. Rep. Tammy
Baldwin today announced a renewed push in Congress to end Bush
administration restrictions on stem cell research." This effort also
draws in groups like the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical
Research and patient advocates including Christopher Reeve. The timing
is better now, it seems: "Asked why she believes this week's letter to
the president will be any more successful than past efforts, Baldwin
said public support for unfettered stem cell research has broadened in
the wake of dramatic research breakthroughs."

Ted Williams' Son Cryopreserved? (March 08 2004)
azcentral.com reports that Ted Williams' son may now be cryopreserved
at Alcor alongside his father. The article offers a good one sentence
summary of the past year for Alcor: "Williams' fight to freeze the
remains of his famous father - he said it was the baseball slugger's
wishes - sparked national interest in cryonics and has left Arizona
legislators considering a bill that would give the state oversight of
facilities that perform such research." It is a real sign of progress
that news outlets now write about the cryonics industry in a normal,
positive way. I hope to see increasing growth and improvement in the
business and technology of cryonics in the years ahead.

Read Our Newsletter Via RSS (March 08 2004)
The latest Longevity Meme newsletter is out today: recent events, site
updates, news, opinions and more. As always, you can read it here on
the Longevity Meme website in addition to opting to receive it in your
in-box. Did you know that you can also read the newsletter through
RSS? Instructions can be found on the newsletter page, and you can
find out all about RSS in many places online. If you're not reading
the newsletter, please allow me this one moment of shameless
self-promotion in which to suggest that you sign up. I hope that
you'll find it a useful and interesting view into the community,
related happenings and activism for longer, healthier lives.


If you have comments for us, please do send e-mail to 
newsletter at longevitymeme.org.

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