LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
July 14 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
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PROTEST OVERZEALOUS FDA INTERFERENCE
There is a new action item up at the Longevity Meme "Take Action!"
section, with thanks to Dean Pomerleau for prodding me into getting it
The FDA recently blocked a new stem cell therapy for heart damage that
has proven very successful in trials. The therapy uses stem cells from
the patient's own blood, directly analogous to using your own blood
for transfusions in surgery. This sort of overzealous reaching on the
part of the FDA carries a staggering cost; 50,000 lives every year are
lost in the wait for heart transplants or a working therapy for heart
disease. We must protest this sort of FDA interference if we are to
benefit meaningfully from advanced medical technologies currently in
The US Food and Drug Administration has a long and checkered history
of failing to live up to its mandate, covering up mistakes, blocking
good therapies and drastically increasing the cost of bring new
medicine to the marketplace. References for those who are interested
can be found at the FDA Review:
Please visit the web page for this action item for more information.
Read, form your own opinions and compose a short, sharp letter to your
representatives. As always, faxes and short, clear, polite points are
the key to communication with politicians. A sample letter is included
on the web page for this action item:
You can find out more about who your representatives are and how to
contact them at the following websites:
One day, you may be one of the people who are sick, suffering or dying
because the FDA acted as they did recently for this stem cell heart
therapy. It's time to rein them in before they trample on further
important medical research.
A REMINDER ON OTHER ACTION ITEMS
Those of you who are new to the newsletter may not have visited the
"Take Action!" section of the Longevity Meme yet. Please do so, and
take a moment to see how you can help to ensure a future of longer,
healthier lives for all.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR HEALTH?
When it comes down to it, you and you only are responsible for your
health. Not your parents, not your friends, not your doctor and
certainly not any given government employee. There is a distressing
tendency in modern society for individuals to drop the ball when it
comes to fundamental rights and responsibilities. You can be as
assured as you please in the belief that someone else will care as
much about your health as you do, but you will be wrong. They don't:
not parents, nor friends, nor your doctor and certainly not government
If you give away your responsibility, your health will suffer. Here is
a wonderful article on this subject from Dr. Mercola's web site. It
deserves far wider distribution; feel free to forward this on to your
Responsibility for your own future health and longevity is at the
heart of the Longevity Meme: Live Healthily, Fight Aging, and Extend
Take responsibility for your own health. Do the research and use the
best techniques available today to slow the damaging effects of aging.
Build a relationship with your physician, exercise, take supplements
and practice calorie restriction.
Responsibility also means taking action to ensure a better, longer,
healthier future. Don't just passively wait and hope! A little effort
from each one of many people will make a large difference. Hastening
the arrival of medicines that will ensure decades (or more) of healthy
life for all of us is of vital importance. This medical technology
could easily arrive too late for those of us reading this. Medical
research into stem cells, aging and regeneration requires support and
encouragement. Anti-research legislation and anti-progress groups must
be defeated. Many, many people have yet to hear the healthy life
extension message. Do your friends a favor and explain the Longevity
Meme to them today!
Extend Your Life
Living a longer, healthier life is a decision. You choose to do it;
health and longevity are not accidents for most of us. Like all things
worth having, they must be worked at and fought for. That decision is
STEM CELLS IN THE NEWS
Stem cell research has been in the news non-stop for the past few
months. Not a week goes by without some new amazing result. It seems
that the first blush of simple stem cell therapies for regenerative
medicine might be only a few years away. I say simple, because these
therapies are literally on the level of transfusions. Stem cells are
cultured from the patient's own tissue and then injected back into the
patient. New medicine doesn't get much simpler than that in this day
and age; we could be on the verge of seeing a revolution in medicine
akin to that connected with early successes in blood transfusion and
control of infection.
It almost seems like stem cells from your own body are the miracle
cure-all; inject them anywhere and things start to fix themselves. Of
course, this throwaway statement hides the many years of hard work by
scientists that has brought us to this point. This hard work
continues. While stem cell therapies for heart damage and eye injuries
are demonstrated successes (here in the US in Japan, respectively),
scientists are still hard at work to bring the similar therapies to
bear on nerve damage and degenerative diseases like Parkinson's.
The future of this first wave of simple stem-cell-based regenerative
medicine looks rosy from the technical side of things. Unfortunately,
the political establishment in the US and other countries are doing
their level best to hamper progress. A ban on a broad swathe of stem
cell medicine is pending in the US:
The FDA, as noted earlier in this newsletter, has forbidden further
trials of successful stem cell therapies for heart damage:
We are responsible for our own future health. This responsibility
extends to telling our elected representatives that what they are
doing is wrong.
That's all for my commentary this time: a news roundup for the past
two weeks follows below.
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 at longevitymeme.org
Founder, Longevity Meme
Seeking Answers To Age-Related Blindness (July 13 2003)
We humans have a tendency to assume that things are easy if they are
proceeding well. So it is with medical research. Research has been
progressing very rapidly of late, but this is due to the hard work of
tens of thousands of scientists. This article from the Memphis
Business Journal shows us a small piece of the overall picture: the
hard work required to solve one small part of the aging process. This
is how aging will be beaten; one small step at a time, with the hard
work of researchers like Malinda Fitzgerald and the support of people
like you and I.
A4M In The Middle East (July 13 2003)
An article from AME Info notes that the American Association of
Anti-Aging Medicine is gearing up to launch a new conference event in
the Middle East. A4M already runs a number of large, influential
events around the world. Unfortunately, they have been overrun in past
years by the bad side of the "anti-aging" marketplace: quacks, miracle
pills and potions. I understand that the scientific, honest side of
the industry as a whole (and A4M specifically) are trying hard to
clean up their act in this respect. Something certainly has to be done
within the next few years before the shysters wreck the legitimate
scientific industry that feeds them beyond any chance of repair.
Bostrom on Those Who Oppose Human Advancement (July 12 2003)
Current legislative efforts to ban research into regenerative
medicine, stem cell therapies and other healthy life extension medical
technology are part of a larger battle. Those who oppose progress and
change (such as bioconservatives) face off against those who desire a
better world for all of us (such as transhumanists). Nick Bostrom has
penned a great article on the arguments currently taking place. Our
corner of the wider battle will determine future longevity and access
to cheap, advanced medical technologies. It is a fight we must win.
"Merchants of Immortality" Discussed (July 12 2003)
An article at the New York Times discusses the book "Merchants of
Immortality." A catchy title for a book about recent and near future
medical advances that will enable us to live longer, healthier lives.
This is placed in the context of "political idiocy" (as the review
puts it) surrounding this medical research. Regular readers will be
quite aware of all of this; bad, anti-research legislation is a common
topic of discussion here.
Cancer and Fat, Once More (July 11 2003)
MSNBC is running an article on the link between being overweight and
an increased risk of cancer. This falls into the common sense and
general health category: there are already so many health reasons to
keep yourself at a sensible weight. Research has shown that being
overweight -- even just a little overweight -- will cut years or
decades from your healthy lifespan. All the more reason to investigate
Stem Cell Therapies For Muscule Degeneration? (July 10 2003)
While we are on the subject of stem cell therapies, here is an article
from Betterhumans on the subject. Research shows that stem cells
cultivated from a patient could be used to treat regenerate muscle
lost to degenerative conditions. Unlike similar work that regenerates
damaged heart tissue (and was recently blocked by the FDA), this
muscle regeneration is in the very early stages. Still, it shows that
there should be a wide range of regenerative therapies resulting from
stem cell work that should be available before the end of the decade.
This is very promising indeed, and could have very beneficial effects
on our future longevity. This is why we must stand up to support and
defend medical research; it is in our own best interests to age in a
world with stem cell medicine rather than one without.
EU Moving To Permit Stem Cell Research (July 10 2003)
As reported in Cordis (found via Transhumanity), the EU is leaning
towards allowing funding for embryonic stem cell research. This is
something of a big fuss and bother over what is really a non-event. EU
member countries can (and will) ignore EU guidelines. Both France and
Germany already either ban or strongly restrict this promising
research, while the UK would be funding it in any case.
Who is Responsible For Your Health? (July 09 2003)
An excellent article from Dr. Mercola's site asks this question. A
quote: "Your answer to this question can increase or decrease the
quality and length of your life, so consider carefully: Who is
responsible for your health?" This is very, very true. We are
individually responsible for our health and longevity. We cannot sit
back and hope to be healthy, just as we cannot sit back and hope that
the future of medical science turns out to be rosy. We must work for a
positive outcome both in our personal health and in the future of
Building Replacement Organs To Order (July 08 2003)
One of the grails of regenerative medicine is the ability to grow
organs for transplant from the cells of the recipients. There would be
no need for donors and far fewer medical complications during a
transplant. As this article from the New Scientist makes clear,
researchers are getting closer to this goal. A cheap, unlimited source
of replacement organs for everyone will be a very important step in
the road to extending our healthy lifespans.
Of Twins and Centenarians (July 08 2003)
An easy-reading article by Chris Mooney at SAGE Crossroads discusses
twin studies and what they can tell us about genetics and aging.
Ongoing studies of twins and centenarians illuminate the way in which
some genetic combinations can help us to live longer lives. As the
article points out, however, good genes are usually no substitute for
good medical care and a healthy lifestyle! It will take more research
and advances in medicine before we can have our cake, eat it, and
still live to be 100.
Debating The Future of Life Extension (July 08 2003)
Betterhumans is hosting a bioethics debate in late August in Toronto.
Amongst the topics is radical life extension, but most other advanced
medical technologies (nanotechnology, genetic engineering, and so
forth) will have a strong bearing on our health and longevity as well.
It looks to be an interesting event given the distance between the
positions argued by the two sides. It should be very similar to the
recent Stock vrs McKibben debate (which is well worth reading).
Publicity materials are available in PDF form for those who want to
help out with spreading the word.
Ted Williams Cryonics Dispute Continues (July 07 2003)
You may have thought that the dispute over Ted William's cryonic
suspension was over and done with, but apparently not. This article
from the St. Petersburg Times brings us up to date on recent
happenings. From where I stand, it looks like the man made a rational
choice to be suspended. The heirs who disagree should respect that
choice rather than continue to try and have him cremated to satisfy
their own selfish desires. The article also notes naive and uninformed
efforts by someone unrelated to Ted Williams to have Alcor
investigated for fraud! This will hopefully come to nothing.
Taming Cancer (July 06 2003)
>From the Boston Globe, a good article on the way in which cancer has
been tamed over the past decade. Incremental but significant advances
in medicine have brought us to this point. I bring cancer up often, as
the past 30 years of fighting cancer is the model for the next 30
years spent fighting aging. What we see now - cancer almost a mere
chronic condition and nearly cured - is the fruit of success in
activism, funding and hard scientific work. This can happen for aging
as well: we merely have to work for it.
Aging Research Becoming Entrepreneurial (July 06 2003)
The Arizona Republic discusses the move towards business realities by
many medical research centers, including those working on aging and
age-related diseases. This is a very good thing to see; this short of
shift happens as a field becomes more legitimate and profitable
therapies are seen as being closer to hand. It opens up reserves of
funding that would otherwise go elsewhere. It encourages faster
development and commercialization of new medicines and therapies. All
in all, it should make us all very happy to see more articles like
this in print!
Vitamin Study Creating Confusion (July 05 2003)
InfoAging is reprinting a couple of items on the recent government
study on the effectiveness of vitamins. The mainstream press didn't
emphasise that this was a narrow, short single study. In short, the
results aren't all that useful or meaningful unless repeated in a lot
more studies. It's always best to take a wait and see approach to
recent research. The results in this study related to smoking are odd:
if you want to lower your cancer risk, quit smoking, not taking
More on Bone Regeneration (July 05 2003)
You may recall recent news of Chinese advances in bone regeneration.
It is are working well and has been successfully used dozens of
patients. This article from Small Times notes that commercialization
is only a few years away. Commentators seem optimistic that it will
get through FDA approval rapidly; we can hope. A normal outcome is for
a new medical technology to be blocked by the FDA for anything up to a
decade. The pioneer of this technology is currently looking at
regeneration of other body parts using similar techniques.
On Hormones, Aging and Risks (July 04 2003)
An article from Boulder News offers a look at the practice of taking
hormone supplements in an attempt to retard aging. There are some
interesting quotes; I think that the important lesson to take away is
that the science is very uncertain. There are unknown risks associated
with the long-term use of hormone supplements. This is one of the
reasons I advise people to stick to proven healthy life extension
strategies. (Like calorie restriction). It is worth noting that the
people who try strategies like hormone supplementation usually take
very good care of their health in other ways as well. They may look
healthy and young, but it is hard say why.
Okinawans Losing Their Longevity (July 03 2003)
>From Reuters AlertNet, news that lifestyle changes in Okinawa are
eroding the famous Okinawan longevity. This longevity is attributed to
the local diet and customs that encourage a form of mild calorie
restriction and moderate exercise. Changes to a more "Western" diet
and lifestyle are shortening the healthy lifespan of Okinawans. We can
look at this process and learn a lot about the way in which we should
be living in order to live healthily, for longer. It is worth
remembering that these current, more "natural" ways of extending your
healthy lifespan will still leave you old and dead in the end. We must
look to the future of medicine and stand up to support medical
research if we want to live in good health and spirits for far, far
More on the Genetic Roots of Longevity (July 03 2003)
>From SpaceDaily, a longer, better article on the recent research into
the set of genes that promote longevity in roundworms. This really is
an impressive set of work that opens a whole set of doors for further
investigation into genetic and biochemical ways of lengthening healthy
lifespan. The impressive speed of this study is due to equally
impressive advances in biomedical technology. It has not been long at
all since the original target longevity gene in this research was
Depressed People Die Younger (July 02 2003)
>From Betterhumans, news that severe depression is linked with a
shorter life. This is probably not news to anyone who has experienced
depression or cared for someone who suffered the condition. Depressed
people do not take care of themselves. If you don't take care of your
body (take supplements, exercise, eat well, have a good relationship
with your physician, and so forth), then your health will not stick
around. It's just like taking care of a car; proper maintenance makes
all the difference to healthy lifespan.
Notes From Transvision 2003 (July 02 2003)
Ronald Bailey (writing for Reason Online) was at Transvision 2003, and
has an interesting report ready. Much of the focus of this conference
was on the fight between those who want to prevent all progress -- in
healthy life extension and other fields -- and those who want to see
the human condition improved through technology. Quote: "...if a cure
for cancer that would otherwise have been available in 2020 is delayed
to 2030...that means tens of millions of people who would otherwise
have been alive would be dead."
How Stress Shortens Your Life (July 01 2003)
An article at Betterhumans talks about stress and the biochemical way
in which it damages your health. Researchers (and everyone else, for
that matter) have long known that stress is bad for your health. Bad
health means a shorter, less happy life. Here now, is the mechanism
that explains how stress leads to a faster rate of age-related damage
to your body. Perhaps this will provoke some of us into taking steps
to reduce the level of stress we subject ourselves to.
Another Ethical Source of Stem Cells? (June 30 2003)
The New Scientist comments on recent work that raises the possibility
of obtaining stem cells from amniotic fluid. There are still many
questions to be answered about stem cells from non-embryonic sources,
such as whether all these different types of stem cells are the same,
and whether they can be used in therapies or regenerative medicine.
Still, it is heartening to see so much progress in this field of
medicine despite attempts to ban and criminalize it. This is where the
life-extending and heath-ensuring medicine of the future will come
Unusual Regeneration Via Stem Cells (June 30 2003)
In another example of stem cells leading to neural regeneration in
unusual ways, researchers have found that these cells release
molecules that aid neuron survival and improve motor ability. (Article
from Betterhumans). This was something of a suprise. There was
impressive regeneration and recovery in the studies carried out on
paralyzed rats, but it was not occurring for the expected reasons.
Still, the researchers are excited: this is yet more proof that stem
cell therapies can cure a wide range of degenerative conditions of
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.