Longevity Meme Newsletter, April 19 2004

Reason reason at longevitymeme.org
Thu Jun 10 09:26:33 EST 2004

April 19 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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- Journalists For Longer Healthier Lives
- Do We Sit On Our Hands, or Do We Move Forward?
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension News Headlines


Journalists - in the olden-times media establishment sense of the word
- have an important part to play in bringing greater understanding of
healthy life extension to the public. As a practical matter, public
support is vital for large scale medical research funding. It took
activism and a groundswell of public enthusiasm to set priorities like
fighting cancer in the 70s or AIDS and Alzheimer's in the 90s. The
same process must occur to make the fight against aging a modern
research priority. If we wait rather than acting, many more people
will suffer and die from conditions that funded researchers might have
learned to cure.

Few journalists make healthy life extension a priority in their work
right now, sad to say, although many biotech writers are enthused by
the clear potential for science to deliver longer, healthier lives. I
list a few noteworthy writers at the end of the press page at the
Longevity Meme:


At the moment, mainstream journalistic writing on healthy life
extension is sparse. There's a lot more of it than there used to be -
which is a wonderful thing - but far less than there should be. We all
suffer from the degenerative effects of the aging process, and we
should all be interested in doing something about that.

I've been spending more time of late chatting to journalists: we have
reaching a tipping point in the perception of serious anti-aging
research in biotech media circles, and I can make a difference by
reaching out. You can do this too: journalists write more on a topic
when then they know it is a hot item that interests readers. When you
see a good article in the press, send the author a polite note to
thank them for talking seriously about issues that are important to
you. Offer constructive criticism and point the author to more
resources (like the Longevity Meme, modesty aside). Feedback is a
powerful tool when talking to the press. It doesn't take many letters
to get a journalist to pay attention to an issue; we can all do our
part to bring more of the press into the healthy life extension fold.


I just today noticed a follow-up article at GNN News Network on human
trials for the latest stem cell heart disease therapy. It has
performed well in a previous trial in Brazil - a trial that had to be
held in Brazil because the FDA had refused to let human trials move
forward in the US up until last month. As one of the earliest working
stem cell therapies, this is more akin to a blood transfusion than
anything else. Bone marrow stem cells are extracted from the patient
and injected back into damaged heart tissue, where they are left to do
whatever it is they do to heal and restore function. As of the moment,
there is some uncertainty over the mechanism whereby this therapy
works, but work it does.


The article ends with a quote from Emerson C. Perin, who took part in
the Brazilian trial and will be leading this latest US trial: "We have
a lot of patients that are marching on towards end-stage heart
failure. Are we going to wait around, sitting on our hands while we
try to figure out what is happening in mice? Or do we move forward and
try to see if this treatment can help?"

I think that this comment is very relevant for the time we live in.
People around the world are suffering and dying from disease and
age-related conditions in numbers that beggar the imagination: 150,000
deaths each and every day, 55 million each and every year. Yet medical
research funding is still a drop in the bucket, and politicians still
try to ban the most promising medical technologies.

A question for all of us, then: do we sit on our hands, or do we move



That is 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



Michael J. Fox On Stem Cell Research (April 18 2004)
(From the Calgary Herald). Michael J. Fox, the celebrity face of
Parkinson's disease, is a strong advocate for stem cell research. The
Michael J. Fox Foundation has raised and channelled $35 million toward
Parkinson's research in the past four years, making it the
second-largest funding source after the US government. Studies have
shown that stem cell based therapies have the potential to provide
treatment and a cure for Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative
conditions. Speaking about anti-research legislation, existing and
planned, Fox says "to limit or disallow that avenue of research is
fundamentally wrong."

Cryonics In Australia (April 18 2004)
news.com.au is carrying a pleasant human interest article on
cryonicists in Australia who make use of US cryopreservation services
such as Alcor or the Cryonics Institute. The sixth Australian to be
cryopreserved was apparently frozen earlier this month. As the main
subject of the artilce says: "Death seems like a big nothing and I
want to see what humans get up to over the coming centuries. That
would be fascinating." Those of us who see cryonics as a backup plan
are placing at least some of our near-term hopes for healthy life
extension in medical advances relating to regenerative medicine.

More Than One Million Signatures (April 17 2004)
(From the Mercury News). The well-funded California Stem Cell Research
and Cures Initiative has gathered more than one million signatures and
the organizers seem confident of a place in the November state ballot.
The proposal would direct $3 billion in state funding over the next 10
years towards regulated stem cell research at California universities.
Given the timing of the US presidential elections, and the candidate
positions on stem cell medicine, this may become an important
referendum. It isn't on the ballot yet, however, and the Initiative
organizers continue to need your support and assistance.

Progress Towards Alzheimer's Vaccine (April 17 2004)
Canada.com reports on progress towards a functional vaccine for
Alzheimer's. A promising candidate - one that attacks the
brain-damaging plaques called beta amyloid - is entering phase II
trials. A quote: "I think the total data is very encouraging, but we
still have clinical development to go. I feel bullish about it
ultimately working and I'm hopeful that it will." A cure for
Alzheimer's - and other inevitable age-related degenerative brain
conditions - is vital to healthy life extension efforts. With
continuing support and funding, we can hope to see breakthroughs in
this and many other fields of medicine in years to come.

A Look At Aging Research (April 16 2004)
The Rocky Mountain News article opens an article on aging science with
an noteworthy factoid: every seven seconds, a baby boomer turns 50.
That's a lot of buying power potentially interested in healthy life
extension. The article looks at the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of
Aging and other research aimed at understanding how the aging process
works. It is possible that there is no unified aging process at all,
i.e. aging is a collection of as yet unidentified degenerative
conditions. Calorie restriction as a tool for extending the healthy
human life span gets a good mention or two before the author closes
with a look at the noisy "anti-aging" marketplace and opinions from
the gerontology community. All in all, the article is an interesting

Creating Very Old People (April 16 2004)
An interesting symposium is taking place at the end of the month in
New Jersey. A number of scientists and speakers are gathering to
discuss the possibilities of longevity research and the implications
for "society." As I see it, people who live much longer, much
healthier lives will just adapt, make new customs, and throw out bad
old rules from the bad old times of age-related disease and
decrepitude. The concept of "society" being an entity somehow separate
from the well-being of individuals who make it up has always struck me
as strange - especially when it is used to justify harming those
individuals by withholding medicine or banning research.

Leon Kass, Mystic (April 15 2004)
I have posted my comments on the recent SAGE Crossroads interview with
Leon Kass of the President's Council on Bioethics to the Fight Aging!
blog. I think it's a pity that Morton Kondrake didn't pin Kass down on
the consequences and costs of the policies he supports, nor did he
chase up the hints of support for government-mandated upper limits on
life span. It's very worrying to see these sorts of ideas being tossed
around by someone in this position - the head of a deliberative body
that issues reports used by the US administration as justification for
restrictive anti-research legislation.

More On Yoda (April 15 2004)
Betterhumans has more on Yoda, the world's oldest living mouse, and
the breeding experiment conducted by Richard Miller. Aubrey de Grey,
cofounder of the Methuselah Mouse Prize, adds his comments on Yoda.
This work isn't as directly relevant to healthy life extension as we'd
like: we are in greater need of ways to reverse aging rather than ways
to genetically alter future generations to age more slowly. Professor
Miller's research program will provide important information on the
way in which hormones interact with the aging process and age-related
conditions - in many ways we are still very much in the dark regarding
important human biochemistry.

Adult Stem Cell Progress (April 14 2004)
(From the New Scientist). A California researcher has demonstrated
that adult stem cells obtained from body fat can grow new tissue as
well as bone marrow stem cells, at least in mice. This is the first
time that fat stem cells have been demonstrated to heal an injury. In
this case they were used to grow new bone, although other studies have
indicated that these adult stem cells could be used to grow other
forms of tissue as well. Fat is considerably easier to harvest than
bone marrow, raising the possibility of "therapeutic liposuction" as a
precursor to regenerative therapies. Difficult bone marrow transplants
may be a thing of the past in years to come.

Innovation On PBS (April 14 2004)
The sixth episode of the PBS science series "Innovation" will discuss
stem cell research and some of the strides in treatment for nerve and
heart damage that have been made already outside the US. As one doctor
says: "I've never seen recovery like this in 25 years of practice ...
I can tell my patients they may walk again, rather than saying life
from a wheel chair can be good." Meanwhile, inside the US, a
still-pending senate bill threatens to criminalize research essential
to stem cell medicine, and private funding has been scared away by
legislative uncertainty. If we want to see better medicine and longer,
healthier lives, we must support researchers and fight bad

Longevity And Enforced Retirement (April 14 2004)
Compulsory retirement laws are an obnoxious practice - one has to
wonder just when it was that personal choice in life and work became
so disreputable. This SAGE Crossroads article examines retirement laws
from the point of view of aging researchers and the future of human
longevity: "As human life spans continue to rise, researchers say that
the rules regarding retirement must keep pace." I have a better idea
... why not just throw out the rules and let people work if they want
to? After all, the sort of healthy, long-lived future envisaged by
biogerontologists like Aubrey de Grey would make retirement laws look
quaint and useless.

The Drugs Are Getting Better (April 13 2004)
Betterhumans notes that Pfizer is already developing a drug to mimic
the effects of a known longevity gene on  high density lipoprotein
(HDL, or "good" cholesterol). You may recall news items from last year
on that topic. Of course it remains to be seen as to whether this new
drug has the desired effect on longevity and resistance to heart
disease. Still, it's a sign that greater understanding and new
technology across the research spectrum is leading to better drug
development. It is becoming easier with each passing year to identify
beneficial effects and more rapidly find drug candidates that will
cause those effects. We are - slowly - moving out of the era of
pulling levers in the dark, and into an era of acting on knowledge.

Working On Advanced Regeneration (April 13 2004)
The Scotsman reports on a DARPA project to investigate regeneration of
major organs and body parts. Lizards and many other animals can
regenerate in this way, but humans have more limited capabilities
(although even we can regenerate a 90% damaged liver). As one
scientist says: "This is doable - I believe it is inevitable that we
will regenerate an entire human limb." Whether or not it will happen
through this methodology of investigating and replicating regeneration
mechanisms in animals - rather than branches of regenerative medicine
relating to stem cells or tissue engineering - remains to be seen.

More Calorie Restriction In The News (April 12 2004)
A positive, realistic article on calorie restriction (or CR) has been
showing up in local news outlets over the past few days. Nice to see
the topic getting more airtime of late. An enthusiastic run on
sentence from the article: "The baby boom generation wants it all so
we want to live longer than our parents' generation and if calorie
restriction will do it, I think that people will try calorie
restriction." While science is still working on determining whether CR
does extend the human life span in the same way that it does in other
mammals, there is ample evidence proving its health benefits -
including improved resistance to age-related disease.

The Oldest Mouse (April 12 2004)
The world's oldest mouse - called Yoda - is four years old and still
going, the equivalent of about about 136 years in a human. Yoda is a
part of a breeding experiment carried out to study the way in which
genes and hormones affect the rate of human aging and risks of disease
late in life. As the founders of the Methuselah Mouse prize realized,
healthy life extension in mice is a yardstick by which the public
measures possibilities for the future of human health and longevity.
Long-lived mice will mean that long-lived people are not too far off.
Aubrey de Grey thinks that we could largely defeat aging in mice in a
decade, given the right level of funding - certainly food for thought.

Olshansky And De Grey On Life Expectancy (April 11 2004)
The Contra Costa Times presents a summary of the opposing views on
lengthening life expectancy in modern gerontology. In the conservative
camp is Jay Olshansky, who believes that extending the healthy human
life span is not a near-future possibility. On the other side is
Aubrey de Grey, who has developed a plan for radical life extension in
our lifetimes. Olshansky's viewpoint is used to justify the lack of
funding for serious anti-aging research - thus it is in danger of
becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. De Grey's science is sound: if we
don't do the research, how will we know for sure what is possible?

Knowledge Is Power In Medicine (April 11 2004)
Scientists are closer to fully understanding the mechanisms of cell
death in the body, an important development for researchers working on
therapies for a range of diseases and conditions, including cancer and
Parkinson's. This BBC article is an interesting read, and a reminder
that we are still a long way from an understanding of human
biochemistry sufficient for all we would like to accomplish in
medicine. Knowledge is power; with knowledge, we can craft therapies
and defeat disease. This research is early stage work, but it is in an
area of great relevance for those of us interested in healthy life
extension and better medicine.

Materials Science And Artificial Body Parts (April 10 2004)
AZoNano notes that nanoscale materials science is helping to produce
better implants and artificial replacements for body parts. The field
of prosthetics competes with regenerative medicine to better repair
age-related damage. Here, we see advances in developing materials that
will better integrate with tissue in the body. If you can get an
artificial hip that is stronger than titanium, bonds more completely
with surrounding tissue, and never wears out, why would you want to
just regenerate the old bone structures? New materials like these
raise interesting possibilities for ways in which we can extend the
durability and age-resistance of our bodies.

Illinois Legislators Debating Stem Cells (April 10 2004)
The Miami Herald reports that Illinois politicians are debating stem
cell research. This growing field of medicine shows great promise for
healthy life extension by allowing repair of the damage caused by
aging and age-related conditions. Bad legislation causes great harm to
public and private research. For example: "There is now an inability
in the state of Iowa to recruit scientists who want to do human
therapeutic cloning, and economic development in this field has been
completely compromised." While progress towards cures is held back by
legislators and special interest groups, tens of millions continue to
suffer and die.

Replacing Bone Marrow Donors (April 09 2004)
As Betterhumans explains, embryonic stem cell medicine has now shown
the potential to eliminate the need for genetically matched bone
marrow donors. This would be a tremendous advance in the treatment of
autoimmune diseases, lukemia, and similar disorders. We can hope that
as more advances like this are demonstrated, politicians will find it
increasingly hard to ban the technologies required for stem cell
research. Regenerative medicine based on stem cells is a vital step in
the process of bootstrapping towards radical life extension, and we
shouldn't stand by while it is under attack. The future of our health
and longevity depends on this research.

An Interview With Aubrey De Grey (April 09 2004)
The Technology Review is running an interview with Aubrey de Grey,
biogerontologist and cofounder of the Methuselah Mouse Prize for
anti-aging research. In addition to some interesting comments on
potential life spans in an ageless world, the conversation touches on
the importance of attaining impressive results in radical life
extension for mice. These demonstrations of practical life extension
technologies will lead to widespread support and understanding - and
thus open the funding floodgates. Will this all happen in time for
those of us reading this today? I'll be the first to admit that,
unlike Aubrey de Grey, I'm very driven by my own personal stake in the
matter. The sooner the better!

Another General Interest Article (April 08 2004)
Here's another general interest article from a mainstream news outlet
(WSOCTV.com in this case). It briefly covers increasing life spans,
healthy life extension science, calorie restriction and why excess
weight is bad for you. As the author notes: "While many people have
searched for the fountain of youth, significant life extension
continues to be an elusive goal." All it will take is the right (high)
level of funding, widespread support and the will to succeed. I am
always heartened to see media outlets treating the topic of healthy
life extension seriously. It indicates that we're making progress.

CBS On Calorie Restriction (April 08 2004)
A short piece on calorie restriction from CBS went out on the air
yesterday. It's good to see more positive mainstream articles
appearing this year. Realizing that the healthy human life span can be
extended at all is a large step for many people, and this sort of
media coverage is very helpful in that respect. Learning about calorie
restriction can be a good gateway into the wider healthy life
extension community - not to mention being demonstrably good for your
health. Getting more people to think seriously about these ideas is a
vital step on the way to funding, researching and developing real
anti-aging medicine.

Cracking The Genetic Code Of Aging (April 07 2004)
The BBC reports on a new study into the genetics of natural longevity.
This Italian team says that "once they have found the genes which
govern ageing, they hope to develop medicines which allow people to
stay healthy for longer." Genetic studies of long-lived people are
already producing results in the US, and should continue to shed light
on new directions for research. Effective therapies result from an
understanding the condition under treatment, and advances in medical
research technology are proving their worth in this respect.
Scientists today have a vastly greater understanding of genetics and
cellular biochemistry than they did just five years ago. We live in
interesting times!

Gene Links Cancer And Aging (April 07 2004)
Betterhumans reports on recent research that provides another insight
into the genetic links between cancer and aging. A longevity gene
essential for tissue repair is also essential to cancer, or so it
seems. This initial study suggests that removing the gene in mice
prevents tumors from developing (but no doubt has undesirable effects
on healthy life span). That should get you all thinking, but here's
some speculation from the scientist involved: "Perhaps aging is just
an unintended byproduct of an adaptive mechanism to stave off cancer
and certain death. Perhaps aging is just nature's way of attacking

Dr. Fossel On Reversing Aging (April 06 2004)
A piece from the State News reminds us that Dr. Michael Fossel (a
proponent of telomere theories of aging) has a new book coming out
this June. He is an advocate of research into cellular processes,
aimed at slowing and reversing the aging process. Remember: there is
no way to reverse aging or greatly extend the healthy human life span
at this time, although scientific studies strongly support calorie
restriction as a path to more healthy years. This is why we must
advocate and support serious medical research in the fight to cure
aging. More scientists are starting to look seriously at healthy life
extension these days; if funding and public support come through, then
it becomes only a matter of time.

Swiss Anti-Research Referendum To Be Held (April 06 2004)
The Washington Times notes that opponents of embryonic stem cell
research in Switzerland have gathered enough signatures for a national
referendum aimed at banning this medical science. The continuing
attempts to halt research that promises near-term cures for all the
most common age-related conditions, as well as a host of other
currently incurable diseases, is saddening. How is it that people can
put small unthinking, unfeeling collections of less than a hundred
cells ahead of the terrible suffering of hundreds of millions
worldwide? Anti-research groups are well organized and have been
winning great victories in the US and Europe - our side must do better
if we want to see a longer, healthier future thanks to regenerative

Smoking Isn't A Smart Idea Either (April 05 2004)
While we're on the subject of taking care of the basics, here's a
study (reported in the Contra Costa Times) showing that smoking
accelerates age-related mental decline - in addition to all the other
ways in which it damages you. From the article: "The most likely
explanation of why smoking causes cognitive decline is its effect on
blood vessels in the brain. It is believed that smoking causes
vascular damage, which, in turn, leads to the death of brain cells."
Most people wouldn't treat a car as badly as they treat their own
bodies ... but staying in shape is vital if you want to be alive and
healthy enough to take advantage of the future of medical science.

Obesity, Exercise, Diet and Cancer (April 05 2004)
(From the LEF News). This is something that is worth repeating, it
seems: the combination of excess weight, poor diet and lack of
exercise is the leading cause of cancer in the US. If you are
overweight, the best thing you can do for your natural longevity (and
future health, not to mention cutting your healthcare expenditures) is
to change your lifestyle to lose weight. For the vast majority of
people, this is as simple as eating a sensible diet that is lower in
calories and getting enough exercise. If you want to be around to
benefit from the anti-aging medicine of the future, you have to take
care of the basics now!


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