Longevity Research for the Future of Biological Aging

Longevity Research

Funding Aging Research

Save for the Future

posted on October 13, 2008

What a week!

If you are in any market, you probably got slaughtered last week. If you didn™t, I want you to handle my investments.

Although I attribute most of the sudden losses to panic selling, it™s still very sobering. We™ll see lots of ripple effects that could last for a long time. We™ll also see more controls which will lead to more erosion of your freedoms.

Meanwhile, I™m working on keeping you alive for a long time, so if the markets are stressing you out, relax and review my previous commentaries on stress.

But this market made one more thing crystal clear to me. You may need money, if you want to dodge the grim reaper. Lots of it. If you didn™t lose money last week, it might be because you don™t have any to lose. And yes, that could be bad if you want to live for an extremely long time.

Let™s face it¦ the first people who are going to get effective life-extending treatment are those who will be able to afford it. If you™re old and broke when the longevity boat arrives, you might miss it. Sure, prices will come down, and pretty rapidly too. But many of us are on the bubble as it is, and not being near the front of the line could just cost you your life. So what are you going to do about it?

All your life, you have been told to save for the future, and you™re most certainly familiar with the magic of compound interest. As we age, we may regret not starting to save years ago. Now, many people who didn™t save figure it™s too late to amass any kind of fortune, so they live day-to-day, paycheck-to-paycheck. But what if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, you would be biologically transformed into a 25-year old, twenty or thirty years from now, if you had $500,000 in the bank at that time. Do you realize that if you socked away about $30,000 in a segregated investment account that compounded at around 10% growth per year, you would have your $500,000 in less than thirty years? (10% is roughly the historical annual growth of the stock market.)

In other words, $30,000 could be the difference between your being part of the last generation to die from biological aging or part of the first to live endlessly. What if you don™t have $30,000? That™s easy. Save $3,000 now and $3,000 every year in the same type of account, and presto! You™ll have your magical $500,000 in less than thirty years.

I have no idea what full rejuvenation will cost when it™s available, so plan for more, not less. Wouldn™t it be nice to be young again with a pile of money in the bank?


Comparisons of mitochondrial biochemistry between species of differing innate longevity is one several branches of research to demonstrate the importance of our mitochondria to aging:


"Mitochondria, the power plants of your cells, generate damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the course of their operation: ROS will race off to damage the first thing they can find by reacting with it, such as a cell membrane. Mitochondria themselves have membranes, and are first in line to be damaged by the ROS they generate. Eventually damage accumulates and cascades to change the surrounding cellular environment very much for the worse. This process is an important root cause of degenerative aging."

This process is why those species more resistant to the damaging effects of reactive oxygen species live longer than their peers. "Resistance" here means that the membranes of mitochondria and other cellular components are built of tougher stuff: proteins less likely to be succumb to ROS attack. Even in primates, mitochondrial composition differences are significant between species and highly correlated with longevity. This all reinforces just how central our mitochondria are to aging, and how vital it is to speed research into repairing damaged mitochondria in humans:



Update on Viruses Versus Cancer (October 10 2008) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081008151320.htm
A number of groups are presently working on ways to use viruses to precisely target and kill cancer cells. Here's an update on one of them from ScienceDaily: "The Senecavirus [is] harmless to normal human cells, but could infect certain solid tumors, such as small cell lung cancer, the most common form of lung cancer. Scientists at Neotropix say that, in laboratory and animal studies, the virus demonstrates cancer-killing specificity that is 10,000 times higher than that seen in traditional chemotherapeutics, with no overt toxicity. The company has developed the 'oncolytic' virus as an anti-cancer agent and is already conducting early phase clinical trials in patients with lung cancer. Researchers went on to identify several areas on the viral protein coat that they think might hook onto receptors on cancer cells in the process of infecting them. It will be critically important to find out what region of its structure the virus is using to bind to tumor cells, and what those cancer cell receptors are. Then we can, hopefully, improve Senecavirus enough to become a potent agent that can be used with many different cancers."

Cuervo On Autophagy (October 10 2008) http://websites.afar.org/site/PageServer?pagename=IA_spotlight_main
A piece from earlier this year at InfoAging: "Aging is characterized primarily by the decline of function in various cellular and molecular systems in the body. These changes are influenced by three factors:
genetics, metabolism, and the environment. The focus in Dr. Cuervo's lab is the metabolic changes and resulting damage from these changes that are experienced with age, specifically damage to proteins. Every person experiences this damage to some degree, regardless of their age, but when it comes to repairing or removing the damage, the difference between young and old is clear. In younger people, the damaged or misfolded proteins can be repaired by what are known as chaperone proteins. Yet, like an old car, proteins that have undergone too much repair are not worth maintaining and so they are transported by the chaperone to the lysosome as 'trash' where they bind to a receptor and undergo autophagy (literally, self-eating) inside the organelle. Dr. Cuervo's research focuses on this pathway and how a major decline in its functionality is seen in older organisms." The piece goes on to describe how researchers restored this functionality to youthful levels in aged mice.

A Good Example of a Cell Signaling Application (October 09 2008) http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2008/10/09/provasculon-a-biogen-backed-startup-testing-regenerative-medicine-on-hearts/
An important field resulting from stem cell research is the discovery and application of biochemical signals to direct existing stem cells in the body - they can be made to repair damage where they would ordinarily remain inactive. Only where stem cells themselves are damaged would new cells be needed: in most situations, greater control over the cells you have is good enough. Via Xconomy: "Provasculon is tackling one of the bigger ideas in regenerative medicine - how to stimulate growth of new blood vessels after they've been damaged by a heart attack. Iin rat studies that a novel protein was able to stimulate a certain type of stem cells (better known to scientists as endothelial progenitor cells) to migrate to damaged heart tissue, promote growth of new blood vessels, and ultimately help the heart pump better after a heart attack. The trick here is that Provasculon is trying to make a genetically engineered form of the key protein, SDF-1, that is able to avoid certain enzymes in the body that would like to chop the protein up and render it useless."

All Problems Are a Matter of Atoms (October 08 2008) http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2008/10/physical-basis-for-problems/
The ultimate goal of medicine is to be able to reliably and precisely manipulate any the molecules in our bodies: all disease, all aging, is a matter of the wrong molecules being in the wrong place at the wrong time. From Accelerating Future: "It's important to realize the obvious: that every human problem, every malady, every concern, every evil, is at root simply a suboptimal arrangement of atoms and molecules. If this sounds quasi-spiritual, it's because it is - for millennia, pre-scientific humans have attributed all ills to various agents - the gods, magicians, and other humans. This is because these ills demand an explanation, and we didn't have a plausible one, so we made it up. Now, at least in the abstract, we have a concrete, very likely correct answer: suboptimal atomic arrangements. This realization is neither trivial nor too broad to be useless. If your problems are caused by the gods (that some people sadly still believe in...), then to solve them, you either need to give up, on engage in rituals [that] have an empirical impact of precisely zero." There is a simple criteria by which to judge whether new technologies will enable better medicine: do they give us the ability to more precisely and easily move atoms around? Modern biotechnology and the molecular manufacturing that will follow are both good examples.

Pondering Aging Stem Cells in the Gut (October 08 2008) http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/37382/title/Old_age_causes_problems_for_gut_cells
From Science News: "Old age can hit animals in the gut. That's where elderly fruit flies experience a signaling imbalance that disrupts renewal of the gut wall, new research shows. The discovery could help scientists understand why the body's organs malfunction in old age, and why intestinal cancer is so common among older people. Normally, 'adult' stem cells in the intestinal wall churn out a steady stream of new cells to replenish the lining [but] in older animals, this balance seems to be breaking down. The imbalance appears to be triggered by stress - not psychological stress, but the chemical stresses put on cells by free radicals or by chronic inflammation, both of which get worse as an animal ages. Cells in the gut lining respond to this stress by activating a protective gene [which] is part of a signaling pathway that spurs intestinal stem cells to grow and divide. In response, another signaling pathway - called the Delta/Notch pathway - ramps up to try to keep that growth in check. But too much Delta/Notch can also derail the natural conversion of these stem cells into mature gut cells, causing an abnormal accumulation of halfway converted cells. [This] malfunctioning of adult stem cells in old age [is] very similar to what happens in certain human stem cell populations."

Attacking Macrophages in Fat (October 07 2008) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-10/cp-ki093008.php

You might recall that the reason excess fat tissue is so damaging seems to be due to roaming macrophages that release inflammatory biochemicals. Via EurekAlert!, a demonstration that reinforces this point: "Over the past decade, it has become quite clear that obesity gives rise to a state of chronic, low-grade inflammation that contributes to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes [researchers] recently found that a specific subset of macrophages invades obese fat and muscle tissue. Although little was known about them, those macrophages are defined by a CD11c marker expressed on their surfaces. They also produce high levels of proinflammatory chemicals that are linked to the development of obesity-associated insulin resistance. We used a genetic 'trick' that allowed us to rapidly kill these macrophages. The treatment killed these cells within hours, and insulin resistance simply reversed itself. It argues strongly that macrophages are causative for the inflammation that leads to diabetes [in those who are obese]. The most interesting thing is that this reversal occurs very rapidly. Twenty-four hours later the animals' insulin response had completely normalized. They were still obese, but no longer insulin resistant."

Back to Top