Healthy Life Extension
posted on September 20, 2011
Dear Future Centenarian,
It™s really a simple matter of rapidly evolving medicine and technology. It just looks miraculous because of how quickly we are advancing.
Reason, editor at www.fightaging.org, offers regular insights into the field of extreme life extension as well as anyone on the planet. He recently wrote a commentary on the inevitability of radical life extension. It™s too important an insight to keep to myself.
You can read it in its entirety at http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2011/08/nobody-is-arguing-that-radical-life-extension-is-impossible.php. Here are some highlights:
œNobody out there is seriously arguing for the impossibility of radical life extension, and I don't think anyone has been for quite some time. It is a given in the present diffuse discussion on the future of medicine and human longevity that at some point advances in biotechnology and nanotechnology will lead to greatly extended lives: centuries and longer lived in good health and vigor. Aging will be brought under control by medicine, like any number of other once intractable medical conditions.
œIt wasn't always this way. People in past centuries might have hoped for the plausibility of radical life extension, but couldn't have said in certainty that it was possible. We, on the other hand, know far more about physics, chemistry, and biology: we know that there is no wall created by the way the universe works standing in our way.
œThe only reason we presently age and suffer is because we haven't yet advanced far enough down the path of biotechnology that is clearly visible and well understood. Aging is, at root, a matter of atoms and molecules in the wrong place and the wrong configuration. Moving atoms and molecules around to order, en masse, and with precision, is a task that we know is possible. We do it all the time, and are learning ever greater finesse with each passing decade.
œYesterday the tools were found molecules that happened to do something useful with other molecules. Today we make use of designed molecules for particular operations, knowing much more about the molecular machinery of our cells. Tomorrow the biotechnologists will build and repair complex molecular machinery that performs far more effectively than our evolved biology.
The longer-term technologies we support at Maximum Life Foundation are those that will accomplish exactly that. The challenge we all face is beating Father Time to the punch. We age slowly but surely every day, so we want to help ensure these technologies are developed soon enough for us to take advantage of them. That will not happen automatically. We need your support as much as you need ours. We™re in this lifeboat together.
LATEST HEADLINES FROM FIGHT AGING!
HORMESIS, CELL DEATH, AND AGING Friday, September 16, 2011 http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2011/09/hormesis-cell-death-and-aging.php
A short open access paper: "Hormesis (a neologism coined from the ancient Greek term hormaein, which literally means 'to set in motion, impel, urge on') describes a favorable biological response to harmless doses of toxins and other stressors. Hormesis-stimulating compounds initiate an adaptive stress response that renders cells/organisms resistant against high (and normally harmful) doses of the same agent. On the theoretical level, hormesis may constitute (one of) the mechanisms that allows stressed cells to avoid senescence and death, and hence might have some impact on the (patho)physiology of aging.
Thus, measures that reportedly prolong the healthy lifespan of multiple species, such as caloric restriction and the administration of resveratrol, may do so by inducing a hormetic response.
[Hormesis] is best represented by ischemic preconditioning, the situation in which short ischemic episodes protect the brain and the heart against prolonged shortage of oxygen and nutrients. Many molecules that cause cell death also elicit autophagy, a cytoprotective mechanism relying on the digestion of potentially harmful intracellular structures, notably mitochondria. When high doses of these agents are employed, cells undergo mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization and die. In contrast, low doses of such cytotoxic agents can activate hormesis in several paradigms, and this may explain the lifespan-prolonging potential of autophagy inducers including resveratrol and caloric restriction."
Â BULLISH ON THE FUTURE OF THERAPIES BASED ON INDUCED PLURIPOTENT STEM CELLS Thursday, September 15, 2011 http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2011/09/bullish-on-the-future-of-therapies-based-on-induced-pluripotent-stem-cells.php
Some enthusiasm from the research community: "induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells [are] where I'm putting almost all of my chips these days, because it combines many of my interests - genomics, sequencing, epigenetics, synthetic biology, stem cells. I don't think people have fully appreciated how quickly adult stem cells and sequencing and synthetic biology have progressed. They have progressed by orders of magnitude since we got IPS. Before that, they basically weren't working. There is much to be worked out. But here's the leap.
If you want to accelerate this, you have to pick an intermediate target that doesn't sound so scary. So you'll start out with bone marrow patients. And you're going to basically make a synthetic version of that patient's bone marrow using IPS, which is going to work much better than the diseased bone marrow. And once this works that's going to catch on like wildfire. And then you'll do skin, and then you'll do every other stem cell you can get. Will people who are, say, aging but not yet sick ever be able to use this technology? I don't consider this medicine, it's preventive. I expect somebody who is truly brave, who has nothing wrong with them other than maybe the usual aging, saying: 'I want a bone marrow transplant', or intestinal, or whatever. And it will gain momentum from there. Initially it will be wealthy people who will try this. Ironically, wealthy people are often willing to be the guinea pigs that are really in a sense the front line of new technologies. They're the foot soldiers. They're willing to put themselves at risk, and to spend money on it."
TRAINING THE IMMUNE SYSTEM TO DESTROY CANCER Thursday, September 15, 2011 http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2011/09/training-the-immune-system-to-destroy-cancer.php
The New York Times is running a piece on a recent small trial of immune therapy for leukemia: "A year ago, when chemotherapy stopped working against his leukemia, William Ludwig signed up to be the first patient treated in a bold experiment at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Ludwig, then 65, a retired corrections officer from Bridgeton, N.J., felt his life draining away and thought he had nothing to lose. Doctors removed a billion of his T-cells - a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors - and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer.
Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig's veins. At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst. A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia. There was no trace of it anywhere - no leukemic cells in his blood or bone marrow, no more bulging lymph nodes on his CT scan. His doctors calculated that the treatment had killed off two pounds of cancer cells. A year later, Mr. Ludwig is still in complete remission. Before, there were days when he could barely get out of bed; now, he plays golf and does yard work."
AUTOPHAGY VERSUS ATHEROSCLEROSIS Tuesday, September 13, 2011 http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2011/09/autophagy-versus-atherosclerosis.php
An interesting view of one benefit of autophagy, a collection of housekeeping processes that are boosted by the practice of calorie restriction:Â researchers have "shown that autophagy, a pathway preserved during evolution, functions to engulf and digest cholesterol accumulated in artery walls. This process facilitates the removal of cholesterol and may provide an entirely new target to reverse atherosclerosis, the main cause of heart attack and stroke.
Cholesterol accumulates in the walls of arteries leading to atherosclerosis, also known as narrowing of arteries and which causes blockages and reduces blood flow to the heart. This often culminates in heart attacks and strokes. The autophagy pathway, which means self-digestion, developed early in single-cell organisms to allow the clearance of accumulated dysfunctional molecules. The finding that autophagy also functions to digest and liberate cholesterol from cells and the fact that we know this pathway is regulated offers hope for the development of new drugs that could activate export of cholesterol from the walls of arteries."
ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF A TARGETED CANCER THERAPY Tuesday, September 13, 2011 http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2011/09/another-example-of-a-targeted-cancer-therapy.php
One approach to the next generation of cancer therapies is to use existing chemotherapy drugs coupled with cell-targeting mechanisms that deliver those drugs only to cancer cells: "A common chemotherapy drug has been successfully delivered to cancer cells inside tiny microparticles using a method inspired by our knowledge of how the human immune system works. The drug, delivered in this way, reduced ovarian cancer tumors in an animal model by 65 times more than using the standard method. This approach is now being developed for clinical use.
It's like we've made a re-enactment of the battle of Troy but on the tiniest scale. In Troy, the Greeks fooled the Trojans into accepting a hollow horse full of soldiers - we've managed to trick cancer cells into accepting drug-filled microparticles. By coating tiny microparticles of around a hundredth the diameter of a human hair with a special protein called CD95, [researchers] could in fact trigger cancer cells into ingesting these particles. Not only that, but the particles could deliver a dose of a common chemotherapy drug called paclitaxel. The key to their success is that CD95 attaches to another protein called CD95L, which is found much more commonly on the surface of cancer cells than it is on normal healthy cells. Once attached, the cancer cells ingest CD95 and the microparticle with it. Inside the cell, the microparticle can unload its chemotherapy cargo, which kills the cell to reduce the size of the tumor."
CRITIQUING POSTMORTAL Monday, September 12, 2011 http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2011/09/critiquing-postmortal.php
At Discover Magazine: "The Postmortal is not about a post-mortal society, it is about a post-aging society. Lots and lots and lots of people die in Magary's vision. In fact, he seems to argue that in the absence of death, people will not only seek death but will create circumstances that create death and thereby, create meaning. It is only when Farrell's life is most in peril that he finds purpose in existence. But Farrell is never immortal, no one is. So my question is: is the process of aging as meaningful as the condition of being mortal? This question vexed me, because I know a great many people who have aged with grace. They wear wizened white beards or crinkled smiles that highlight eyes behind inch-thick spectacles. Some people are just awesome at being old. They have custom canes and smoke ivory pipes and say saucy things that only they can get away with.
To reference Harry Potter again, Voldemort, Mr.Flees-From-Death himself, is contrasted with Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall, both of whom are walking idealizations of what the aging process should look like. But that's just it, isn't it? They are idealizations. Reality presents a grimmer picture. Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and a laundry list of other late-onset diseases savage the body just enough that modern medicine can step in to keep the heart beating and the organs limping along while the mind deteriorates to the point of nothingness.
Aging in the modern era is about slow unstoppable loss - of hearing, of memory, of mobility, of continence, of dignity. What part of that process creates meaning in our lives? In Magary's mind, the stop of physical aging is the stop of maturation. In this sense, I suspect Magary's indictment is not of those like Aubrey de Grey who seek the end of aging, but of those who resist maturation. Magary's values are essentially conservative. Human beings do not settle down because they age anymore than people have quarter-life or midlife or three-quarter life crises because they age. People are content or discontent based on the life they are currently living."