Longevity Meme Newsletter, December 29 2003

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    LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER December 29 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/.

    ______________________________

    CONTENTS

    - Looking Back on 2003
    - The Methuselah Mouse Prize: A Great Step Forward
    - A Year in Stem Cell Medicine: Advances and Setbacks
    - Cryonics in 2003: Publicity, Not All Welcome
    - Calorie Restriction, a Year of Eating Well
    - Discussion
    - Latest Healthy Life Extension News Headlines

    LOOKING BACK ON 2003

    It's been a year of ups and downs in progress towards working healthy life extension medicine.
    Researchers have produced weekly miracles of science, while politicians and special interests have
    labored mightily to ban it all. This newsletter itself is now almost a year old, so you'll find many
    of the salient high and low points of 2003 covered in past issues. Follow the link below and scroll
    down to read them.

    http://www.longevitymeme.org/newsletter/

    THE METHUSELAH MOUSE PRIZE: A GREAT STEP FORWARD

    Supported by some of the same faces behind the enormously successful X Prize, the Methuselah Mouse
    Prize for Anti-Aging Research became a reality in 2003. In its first six months, the prize has
    passed $40,000 in public donations, and has received endorsements from leading researchers and
    futurists.

    http://www.methuselahmouse.org/

    I look forward to seeing great things in the future of this effort. You can help too by making a
    modest tax-deductible donation. Go ahead!

    A YEAR IN STEM CELL MEDICINE: ADVANCES AND SETBACKS

    Advances in stem cell medicine have been simply stunning in 2003, as have, alas, political efforts
    to block this medical progress. We've seen the first successful applications of simple stem cell
    medicine to cure heart disease in human trials in the US, Germany and Japan ... closely followed by
    a block on further trials in the US:

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

    Breakthroughs have been made in therapeutic cloning, a fundamental technology needed to bring
    regenerative medicine based on stem cells out of the laboratory and into hospitals. Regenerative
    medicine has an unassuming name, but shows amazing promise in trials and research work: cures for
    Parkinson's, nerve damage, heart disease, Alzheimer's, cancer, blindness, deafness, diabetes, and
    serious physical injuries have all been demonstrated in trials or research settings using
    regenerative medicine based on stem cell technology. This wave of medical technology will - if not
    blocked - bring better medicine and longer, healthier lives.

    http://www.longevitymeme.org/topics/stem_cells_and_regenerative_medicine.cfm

    Scientists are learning ever more about the biochemical mechanisms that control stem cells. At the
    time of writing, Advanced Cell Technology has demonstrated reliable embryonic stem cell production,
    while a research group from Scripps claims to be able to create stem cells from adult tissue:

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.01/clones.html?tw=wn_tophead_3

    http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-12-24-5

    With better sources of cells and newly available tools and knowledge, researchers could soon begin
    making even faster progress towards cures for diseases that have plagued humanity and shortened
    lives since the dawn of mankind. Truly, we live in an era of wonders.

    Unfortunately, all these breakthroughs have occurred under a cloud of hostile, anti-research
    legislation in the US and Europe. The US senate is due to vote on a complete ban on therapeutic
    cloning in 2004, while the US will again be leading attempts to enact a UN global ban on this vital
    medical technology late in the year. A ban on therapeutic cloning is effectively a ban on all
    regenerative medicine based on stem cells: this means a ban on demonstrated cures Parkinson's, nerve
    damage, heart disease, Alzheimer's, cancer, blindness, deafness, diabetes, and serious physical
    injuries. It is nothing short of astounding that so many allegedly compassionate human beings are
    spending so much time, money and effort to ensure that the sick and elderly continue to suffer and
    die. You can learn more - and make your voice heard - at the following pages:

    http://www.longevitymeme.org/projects/oppose_the_therapeutic_cloning_ban.cfm
    http://www.longevitymeme.org/projects/oppose_global_therapeutic_cloning_ban.cfm

    CRYONICS IN 2003: PUBLICITY, NOT ALL WELCOME

    2003 has been an interesting, mixed year for the small and often misunderstood cryonics industry.
    Cryonics providers are companies that will freeze your body on death ("cryopreservation"), in the
    hopes that future medical technology will be able to revive and repair you. Cryonics offers the only
    hope of eventual healthy life extension for people who are too old or too ill to benefit from the
    medicine of the next few decades. You can lean more at:

    http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryonics http://www.cryonet.org/

    The entry of a new research venture, Suspended Animation Inc., promises to bring much needed
    advances and spin-offs to basic cryonics technology as currently practiced. Better technology and
    product lines other than cryopreservation are badly needed, in my opinion at least, and can only
    help to legitimize the cryonics industry in the eyes of its detractors.

    http://www.suspendedanimationinc.com/

    The cryopreservation of baseball legend Ted Williams at Alcor led to some very high profile
    publicity earlier in the year (and an equally high profile and rather ugly legal battle between his
    children over his choice to be preserved). Sadly, the only lasting effect of this publicity appears
    to be a newfound interest by government officials in regulating or shutting down cryonics providers,
    all for far from noble reasons. The Cryonics Institute has been targeted, for example, despite
    legally and safely conducting its business for the past three decades. The following link from Rand
    Simberg's blog makes all the necessary points on this issue:

    http://www.interglobal.org/weblog/archives/003115.html

    Additionally, Suspended Animation was recently denied permission to conduct legal scientific
    research in their new Boca Raton facility, and is suffering through the search for a new location.
    The cryonics industry seemed for a while, as it has before, on the verge of some form of
    breakthrough in public perception and legitimacy ... but it may be just back to business as usual in
    2004. Keep an eye on Suspended Animation, Inc, though: if real long-term change is coming, that
    company or one like it is likely to be the source.

    CALORIE RESTRICTION, A YEAR OF EATING WELL

    Calorie restriction groups, such as the CR Society, appear to have won the media diet wars of 2003,
    be it unintentionally and without really trying. Calorie restriction, eating fewer calories while
    still obtaining the necessary nutrients and vitamins, has long been known to extend healthy life
    span. Indeed, calorie restriction is the gold standard of healthy life extension research - the one
    technique currently available that we can say works beyond a doubt:

    http://www.longevitymeme.org/topics/calorie_restriction.cfm

    Calorie restriction (CR) has been showing up in mainstream media ever more often during 2003, no
    doubt due to a surprisingly large number of serious articles on the merits of various diets and the
    growing problem of obesity in modern society. CR isn't practiced for weight loss, of course, but
    that is one of the side effects. The final consensus in the mainstream press appeared to be that low
    calorie diets - like CR - beat out all others in benefits and effectiveness. This process culminated
    in a recent series of spots on CR at ABCNews:

    http://abcnews.go.com/sections/2020/Living/calorie_restriction_diet_031205-1.html

    The CR Society itself has been growing in size and sophistication, and the hope is that we'll
    see more of that in 2004. If you want to learn more about practicing CR to lengthen your life
    and improve your health, then the CR Society website is very much the place to start. Follow the
    link below:

    http://www.calorierestriction.org

    As a final note, the National Institute of Aging is funding CALERIE, a serious, large-scale study on
    the long-term beneficial effects of CR that got underway in 2003.

    http://calerie.dcri.duke.edu/

    In conjunction with work in the private sector performed by companies such as BioMarker
    Pharmaceuticals, this may lead to greater understanding and eventual advances in healthy life
    extension medicine.

    DISCUSSION

    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, or want to discuss the newsletter, please do visit
    the forum at http://www.longevitymeme.org/forum.cfm or send e-mail to [email protected]

    Remember - if you like this newsletter, the chances are that your friends will find it useful too.
    Forward the newsletter on by all means, or post it to your favorite online communities. Encourage
    the people you know to pitch in and make a difference to the future of health and longevity!

    Reason [email protected] Founder, Longevity Meme

    ______________________________

    RECENT NEWS

    Japan Moves Ahead With Embryonic Stem Cell Research (December 26 2003) http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-
    bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20031227b4.htm The Japan Times reports on Japanese efforts to be at the
    forefront of embryonic stem cell research, with an emphasis on developing cures for
    neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's. The final comments on bioethics regarding embryonic
    stem cells are telling: an island of Japanese rationality in the midst of a sea of Western hysteria.
    This research will lead to cures for some of the worst conditions of aging
    - it will lead to longer, healthier lives. We should support the hard working scientists who are
    striving to improve our lives and bring better medicine to the world.

    New Understanding of Brain Damage Mechanism (December 26 2003) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-12/uot-
    nuo121903.php (At EurekAlert). This article has been doing the rounds for a few days; scientists
    have uncovered the major mechanism that causes brain damage when cells are deprived of oxygen (such
    as from a stroke), and have a way to prevent it for up to three hours. Strokes are the second
    leading cause of death worldwide, and a new anti-stroke therapy could be available in three years or
    so. This new knowledge is also very interesting in regard to cryonics: it would be a way of ensuring
    that the brain is not damaged in the interval between death and cryopreservation.

    More on Reversine at Scripps (December 25 2003) http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-12-24-
    5 Betterhumans covers the recently announced work at the Scripps Research Institute on creating
    stem cells via a chemical called reversine. As the Betterhumans staff notes, this potentially opens
    the door to lizard-like regeneration of lost body parts in humans, not to mention bypassing the
    embryonic stem stell debate. Some scientists and observers in the field are (justifiably)
    skeptical, however, and want to see wider scientific confirmation and independent verification of
    this new process.

    The State of Tissue Engineering (December 25 2003)
    http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/12_03/tissue_engineering.shtml The Genome News Network
    provides an informative article on the current state of the art in tissue engineering for
    regenerative medicine. There is some impressive work being done at the forefront of the field: "This
    is not imaginary science anymore," says William Haseltine, CEO of Human Genome Sciences. "Functional
    tissues made from cells and biomaterials are being implanted in humans." Teams of scientists have
    grown and successfully implanted entire organs in the lab, using biodegradable scaffolds and the
    patient's own cells. This is impressive medical technology: waiting for transplants may soon be a
    thing of the past.

    The Role of Animals in Regenerative Medicine (December 24 2003)
    http://www.reason.com/rb/rb122403.shtml Ronald Bailey's latest article at Reason Online outlines the
    prominant role that animal studies have in the march towards working regenerative medicine. He also
    examines the strong opposition towards work on growing replacement human tissue and stem cells in
    animal hosts, finding it illogical and inconsistant: "What is more immoral - working to provide
    transplants for sick people, or blocking the development of such transplants?" This oppposition to
    medical progress is a part of a wider anti-research movement at work in the US today.

    Nanotechnology, Medicine and Healthy Life Extension (December 23 2003)
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20031223/02/ BioMed Central notes that nanotechnology will
    revolutionize medicine, starting fairly soon with improvements to diagnosis and personalised
    medicine. Nanotechnology is itself an enormous, rapidly growing field, and I encourage you to read
    up on the possibilities for astounding advances in health and longevity through nanomedicine. A good
    starting point is "Nanotechnology and Life Extension" here at the Longevity Meme, penned by Chris
    Phoenix of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. Nanotechnology offers the eventual hope of
    truly low cost medicine for everyone, and will probably one day replace stem cell based regenerative
    medicine as the healthy life extension technology of choice.

    Stem Cells Giving Up Their Secrets (December 23 2003) http://www.nature.com/nsu/031222/031222-4.html
    At Nature, news of another advance in our ability to control and use stem cells. Based on knowledge
    gained earlier in 2003, scientists have used chemicals to control the timing of stem cell
    specialization. This is the beginning of the road to discard some of the very clumsy techniques
    currently used to this end. A quote: "If we want to make stem cells into therapies, we're going to
    need cell lines that were never grown in any foreign proteins. This work should help us take stem
    cells into that clinical setting."

    Normal Cells Turned Into Stem Cells (December 22 2003) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-12/sri-
    rct122203.php (From EurekAlert). Scientists from the Scripps Research Institute are claiming
    success in making adult cells reverse the normal cycle of development in order to form their own
    precursor stem cells. If widely validated by the scientific community, this should be hailed as an
    amazing success in the march towards regenerative medicine and longer, healthier lives. Stem cell
    therapies for the degenerative conditions of aging will be far more effective if your own stem
    cells can be used to regenerate lost or damaged tissue. We should all keep an eye on this research
    to see what develops.

    Is Aging Just Undetermined Disease? (December 22 2003) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-12/bc-
    dwy122203.php A release at EurekAlert proposes that the symptoms of old age are the effects of
    undiagnosed and possibly unrecognized diseases. As the article points out, osteoporosis (bone loss)
    was not recognized as a treatable condition - as opposed to "just a part of getting old" - until
    comparatively recently in medical history. This is an intriguing and important way of looking at
    things, especially since regulatory agencies like the FDA do not recognize aging as a disease or
    condition, and will therefore not approve treatments. A quote: "The distinction between normal
    ageing and disease late in life seems to a large extent arbitrary."

    Christopher Reeve on Medical Research (December 21 2003)
    http://www.jta.org/page_view_story.asp?intarticleid=13591&intcategoryid=5 In this article from JTA
    News, Christopher Reeve discusses his recent visit to Israel and the current state of research into
    regenerative medicine. Reeve is a very effective advocate for the research most likely to lead to
    healthy life extension medicine - as well as to a cure for the nerve damage causing his paralysis -
    and his CRPF does good work. A quote: "What I'm fighting for is the freedom of scientific inquiry.
    Stem cells will probably benefit millions of people suffering from a wide variety of diseases." You
    should let Christopher Reeve know that he's doing a great, amazing job.

    Show Your Support For CAMR (December 20 2003)
    http://www.longevitymeme.org/projects/support_the_coalition_for_the_advancement_of_medicine.cfm The
    Coalition for the Advancement of Medicine (CAMR) is a noted, active political advocacy group that is
    fighting for the right to develop better therapeutic cloning technologies (also known as "somatic
    cell nuclear transfer" or SCNT). A great deal of stem cell and regenerative medicine rests on the
    use of therapeutic cloning, so currently threatened bans and existing restrictive legislation are
    damaging a broad swathe of research. CAMR is working on your behalf to make sure that the most
    promising present day medical research is allowed, and that the life saving medicine of the future
    is permitted. You can help by taking part in their initiatives.

    Just Add Water (December 19 2003) http://www.nature.com/nsu/031215/031215-11.html Nature is carrying
    an article on a very interesting direction in stem cell research: dehydrated storage. "Instant" stem
    cells could one day be used as an advanced form of first aid; just add water for regenerative
    medicine on the go. That is a long way off, of course, but any technique that eases storage and
    transport of stem cells will be a great boon to research across the board. This work is an outgrowth
    of proven dehydration techniques used to dry and store blood cells for transfusion. It is a good
    sign to see healthy progress in baseline utility technologies for stem cell medicine: better tools
    mean faster, cheaper, better research.

    Methuselah Mouse Prize Hits $40,000 (December 18 2003) http://www.methuselahmouse.org The Methuselah
    Mouse Prize, launched earlier in 2003, has passed the $40,000 mark. A cause for celebration indeed!
    This is thanks to the many people who have come forward to be early donors, leading the way for well
    known donors like William Haseltine and Ray Kurzweil to make contributions and endorsements. We see
    a great future ahead for the Methuselah Mouse Prize; it is growing faster than the X Prize did in
    its early days back in 1996. You can help the future of the Methuselah Mouse Prize and of anti-aging
    research: donate today!

    Potential Cancer Cure Number 19 (December 18 2003) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-12/slu-
    tcc121503.php EurekAlert covers another potential cancer cure in the works. There has been a recent
    trend, enabled by advances in basic medical technologies, towards smarter ways of fighting cancer:
    targeting only cancerous cells for destruction, for example. In this case, a genetically engineering
    cold virus attacks only cancerous cells. The latest cancer research is essential to healthy life
    extension, and the variety of potential cures is a demonstration of what solid funding and public
    backing can do. We need to do the same for anti-aging research!

    Regenerative Medicine Grows Blood Vessels (December 17 2003) http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?articleID=2003-12-16-
    2 (From Betterhumans). In an important step forward, researchers have grown embryonic stem cells
    into fully formed blood vessels. The need to create blood vessels has been a stumbling block on the
    way to culturing large amounts of replacement tissue (such as organs for transplant), and now it
    looks like this problem is well on the way to being solved. The ability to grow new blood vessels as
    required opens the door to a range of advanced regenerative medicine, such as transplants for age-
    damaged organs that are grown from a patient's own cells.

    European Parliament Rejects Therapeutic Cloning Ban (December 17 2003)
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20031217/03/ As noted by BioMed Central, the European Parliament
    has rejected attempts to adopt a blanket ban on the medical use of cells created via therapeutic
    cloning. The adopted legislation (largely dealing with safety and quality issues in human tissues
    for medical use) defers to member states on stem cells and therapeutic cloning. "Regarding cloned
    human embryos, it was agreed that existing legislation in the member states should remain into
    force. This directive does not interfere with these states' decisions concerning the use or non-use
    of any specific type of human cells, including germ cells and embryonic stem cells."

    On Abuses of Skepticism and Healthy Life Extension (December 16 2003)
    http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/abuses/ An article by Chris Mooney at CSICOP reveals the way in
    which normally healthy skepticism is abused to cast doubt on valid scientific advances towards
    longer, healthier lives. A quote: "There are lots of cranks out there pushing unproven anti-aging
    remedies today. And as Shermer rightly notes, leading gerontologists have issued statements
    condemning such quackery. But many of those same scientists think we will be able to slow or even
    reverse human aging in the relatively near future." Healthy life extension cannot be dismissed or
    left unfunded simply because there is fraud in the "anti-aging" marketplace.

    Inside a Successful Therapeutic Cloning Advance (December 16 2003)
    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.01/clones.html?tw=wn_tophead_3 Wired is running a fascinating
    report on a successful advance in therapeutic cloning technology at Advanced Cell Technology (ACT).
    ACT uses therapeutic cloning to create sources of stem cells, essential to regenerative medicine
    research. Like many companies, ACT has been hit hard by the hostile political atmosphere in the US;
    the article should make it quite clear that current administration policies are badly damaging vital
    research. There could be worse to come, so make your voice heard!

    The Science Behind Ceremedix and Lifeline (December 15 2003) http://newsite.lef.org/news/aging/2003/12/08/krtbn/0000-0390-DP-BRAIN-
    RESEARCH.html The LEF News has a little more on the science behind the promised new antioxidant
    supplement from Ceremedix and Lifeline Nutraceuticals. I normally wouldn't spend so much space on
    supplements - since other medical technologies show so much more promise, and their marketplaces are
    not filled with frauds and wastrels - but people have been asking, and this sort of material isn't
    easy to dig up from the primary scientific sources. For those who are interested, you should be able
    to follow up further from the facts presented in this article.

    NJ Assembly Approves Stem Cell Research (December 15 2003) http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/ny-bc-nj--xgr-stemcells1215dec15,0,5932918.story?coll=ny-ap-
    regional-wire (Reported in Newsday.com). Despite opposition from conservatives, New Jersey approved
    a bill permitting stem cell research in the state. It is very good to see at least a few states
    standing up to the anti-research legislation in the Federal government. A quote: "Organizations that
    sponsor research for terminal illnesses praised the bill as a major step forward for finding cures
    and lessening painful symptoms of deadly diseases." Stem cell research offers near term hope for
    extending healthy lifespan and saving many lives through regenerative medicine; the ability to
    repair the damage caused by aging and injury.

    ______________________________

    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 [email protected]
     
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