Healthy Life Extension
One Wealthy Friend Would Make a 20 Year Difference
posted on June 05th, 2012
Dear Future Centenarian,
Another contribution to Longevity News Digest from Reason:
Researchers have demonstrated a genetic alteration previously shown to extend life in mice can be packaged into a gene therapy to extend life.
A few years ago, a Spanish research team created transgenic mice that lived significantly longer than normal by combining increased p53 with increased telomerase.
p53 is a cancer suppressor that under usual circumstances reduces the ability of stem cells to replace worn cells in aging tissue. Less cell proliferation means a lower chance of cancer over time, but also faster aging as the tissues of the body wear and fail more readily.
More telomerase, on the other hand, achieves the opposite end: dynamic, longer lasting cells that also produce way more cancers in the course of their more energetic operations. This, in any case, is the consensus view of how these elements work in the biochemistry of mammals.
The researchers recently published results for the next stage of their research program: taking the modifications that had been transgenic to date and instead applying them as gene therapies to adult mice. This is a step on the road to building some form of beneficial medical technology for humans.
Mice treated at the age of one lived 24% longer on average, and those treated at the age of two, by 13%. Furthermore, the therapy produced an appreciable improvement in the animals' health, delaying the onset of age-related diseases - like osteoporosis and insulin resistance - and achieving improved readings on aging indicators like neuromuscular coordination.
The gene therapy utilized consisted of treating the animals with a DNA-modified virus, the viral genes having been replaced by those of the telomerase enzyme, with a key role in aging.
As I discussed in previous issues, telomerase repairs the extremes of chromosomes, known as telomeres, and in doing so, slows the cell's, and therefore the body's biological clock. When the animal is infected, the virus acts as a vehicle depositing the telomerase gene in the cells.
In 2007, [the researchers] proved that it was feasible to prolong the lives of transgenic mice, whose genome had been permanently altered at the embryonic stage, by causing their cells to express telomerase, and also, extra copies of cancer-resistant genes.
These animals live 40% longer than is normal and do not develop cancer. The mice subjected to the gene therapy now under test are likewise free of cancer.
Researchers believe this is because the therapy begins when the animals are adults. So they do not have time to accumulate sufficient number of aberrant divisions for tumors to appear.
LATEST HEADLINES FROM FIGHT AGING!
CREATING PARTIAL REGENERATION IN THE SPINE Friday, JuneÂ 1, 2012
Researchers make paralyzed rats walk through a mix of chemical stimulation and structured physical therapy; only a little regrowth in the spine occurs, but the lower spinal column can take over some of the lost functionality under the right circumstances:
"a severed section of the spinal cord can make a comeback when its own innate intelligence and regenerative capacity is awakened. After a couple of weeks of neurorehabilitation with a combination of a robotic harness and electrical-chemical stimulation, our rats are not only voluntarily initiating a walking gait, but they are soon sprinting, climbing up stairs and avoiding obstacles when stimulated. Until now the spinal cord expressed so little plasticity after severe injury that recovery was impossible. Under certain conditions, plasticity and recovery can take place in these severe cases - but only if the dormant spinal column is first woken up. To do this, [researchers] injected a chemical solution of monoamine agonists into the rats.
EFFECTS OF EXERCISE AND DIET ON MORTALITY IN THE OLD Thursday, May 31, 2012
Via EurekAlert!: researchers "studied 713 women aged 70 to 79 years who took part in the Women's Health and Aging Studies. This study was designed to evaluate the causes and course of physical disability in older women living in the community.
A number of studies have measured the positive impact of exercise and healthy eating on life expectancy, but what makes this study unique is that we looked at these two factors together. Researchers found that the women who were most physically active and had the highest fruit and vegetable consumption were eight times more likely to survive the five-year follow-up period than the women with the lowest rates.
A HIGH LEVEL VIEW OF WHAT IS KNOWN OF AGING Wednesday, May 30, 2012
The Guardian talks to researcher Tom Kirkwood: "We've known for some time that aging is extremely variable; that everybody is different and that the differences of individuals' experience of aging are greater than differences in earlier stages of life. And why so variable? Because of the nature of the aging process.
I've been involved in this field for more than 35 years and when I entered it people fondly believed that aging was programmed; that there was a mechanism inside our bodies that determined how long we would live. It was kind of written into our genes that we would die at a certain age. What we've been able to show is that the idea of this genetically programmed aging makes no sense at all. There is no evidence.
TISSUE ENGINEERING OF SMALL BLOOD VESSELS Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Researchers are increasingly able to produce networks of small blood vessels - here in a way that is only immediately applicable to testing, but which will no doubt lead to further progress:
"bioengineers have developed the first structure to grow small human blood vessels, creating a 3-D test bed that offers a better way to study disease, test drugs and perhaps someday grow human tissues for transplant. With this, we can really dissect what happens at the interface between the blood and the tissue. We can start to look at how these diseases start to progress and develop efficient therapies.
A CHEAP AND ABUNDANT SOURCE OF HEART MUSCLE CELLS Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Researchers find a low-cost way of creating cardiomyocytes on demand: they can "transform human stem cells - both embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells - into the critical heart muscle cells by simple manipulation of one key developmental pathway.
Manipulating a major signaling pathway known as Wnt - turning it on and off at prescribed points in time using just two off-the-shelf small molecule chemicals - is enough to efficiently direct stem cell differentiation to cardiomyocytes. The technique promises a uniform, inexpensive and far more efficient alternative to the complex bath of serum or growth factors now used to nudge blank slate stem cells to become specialized heart cells. Our protocol is more efficient and robust.
AUTOANTIBODIES IN ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE Monday, May 28, 2012
Via ScienceDaily, an example of a more recent form of theory to explain the development of Alzheimer's disease: "dying or damaged brain cells release debris into the bloodstream and give rise to specific autoantibodies that appear to be reliable biomarkers for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.