Age Without Degenerating?

Healthy Life Extension

Funding Aging Research

Age without Degenerating?

posted on May 1st, 2012

Dear Future Centenarian,

There's a lot to be said for aging. The passage of years offers many opportunities to master skills, figure out solutions to the issues of youth, earn the resources and connections needed to be self-sufficient and confident¦ and much more.

You can build a great life, given just the time to work on it and a modicum of common sense¦ and then keep building on the foundation of that great life. In some ways, as humans age, it can just keep getting better.

But there™s a catch:

Degeneration and death. Disease and decrepitude.

The fact that older people are generally happier, more secure, and more confident despite what happens to their bodies with age is a testament to just how good aging can be. The majority evaluate their position as far superior to that of earlier years despite the increasing corrosion to their bodies and the ticking away of remaining time.

That™s a powerful statement, isn™t it?

On this topic, note that over the years, an unfortunately large number of apologists for aging have become dazzled by the good parts of the package, to the point where they are unwilling to talk about picking apart aging and degeneration, or trying to radically change aging through medical technology.

To their view, the world is what it is. And they believe we should just focus on the positives and suffer the negatives with dignity.

Not that that last point is easy. There is no dignity in your body and mind failing, only horrors that the dominant voices of this society seem to have chosen to try to close away behind the curtains.

It™s both strange and understandable to find so many conservatives”in the dictionary definition of the word”not the political definition, in an age of rampant, ongoing, omnipresent change.  Those who benefit the most from technological progress, and consequent decade-by-decade shifts in the minutiae of the human condition, nonetheless adopt positions based on the idea that what presently exists will continue to exist as-is into the future.

It's denial, it's letting the ape inside drive”the ape who really, really, doesn't like change or upsets to the present carefully constructed social hierarchy, no matter how beneficial it might be.

Being aged has its advantages, but it's just plain dumb to try to turn that into an argument that being sick, weakened, in agony, and driven mad is also positive.

Medicine will be able to remove all of these ugly aspects of old age, provided we work hard enough and fund the right research and development. The people who paint on sunny smiles and say that nothing will ever change are only helping to hold back that future.

See Reason™s original article at

More Life,
David Kekich


This seems like an interesting marker of public awareness of aging science; one of the noted researchers in the field recently started on a biweekly column for a local paper.

Links to the columns published to date can be found on this page: "In my last column I discussed something we all know intuitively: Generally speaking, larger species of animals live longer than smaller species and this pattern extends even to whales that live more than 200 years. Are there dramatic exceptions to this rule - like people, for instance?

Think of other mammals about our size, such as deer or mountain lions or seals. Don't we live longer than they do? The answer is, 'Yes, we do.' Humans live about five times as long as the average mammal of the same size, which makes us pretty special - but not as special as bats. Texas is bat country, as anyone who has watched millions of bats boil out of Bracken Cave or from under Austin's Congress Avenue Bridge can verify.

What many people don't realize is how long bats live. For their size, bats are the longest-lived mammals by far, living up to 10 times as long as an average mammal of similar size. Think about this for a second. Your dog or cat, eating the best food science can provide, protected from predators and the elements and vaccinated against all sorts of diseases, is doing well to reach 15 to 20 years of age. By comparison, in order for a bat in the wild to survive it must catch its own prey, elude predators, resist climatic extremes, and avoid a wide range of infectious diseases.

Yet despite these challenges, bats can live twice as long as your pampered pet." Current thinking on bat longevity looks to be similar to theories on naked mole rat longevity - it has to do with resistance of cell membranes (and especially mitochondria) to oxidative damage, otherwise known as the membrane pacemaker hypothesis of aging. This is thought to have developed in bats, and in birds, in respond to the metabolic demands of flight.

Via ScienceDaily: researchers "have identified a group of 'aging' genes that are switched on and off by natural mechanisms called epigenetic factors, influencing the rate of healthy aging and potential longevity.

The study also suggests these epigenetic processes - that can be caused by external factors such as diet, lifestyle and environment - are likely to be initiated from an early age and continue through a person's life. The researchers say that the epigenetic changes they have identified could be used as potential 'markers' of biological aging and in the future could be possible targets for anti-aging therapies. The study looked at 172 twins aged 32 to 80 from the TwinsUK cohort.

The researchers looked for epigenetic changes in the twins' DNA, and performed epigenome-wide association scans to analyze these changes in relation to chronological age. They identified 490 age related epigenetic changes. They also analyzed DNA modifications in age related traits and found that epigenetic changes in four genes relate to cholesterol, lung function and maternal longevity.

To try to identify when these epigenetic changes may be triggered, the researchers replicated the study in 44 younger twins, aged 22 to 61, and found that many of the 490 age related epigenetic changes were also present in this younger group. The researchers say these results suggest that while many age related epigenetic changes happen naturally with age throughout a person's life, a proportion of these changes may be initiated early in life."

An open access review paper looks at how the study of fly aging has informed the life sciences: "it is likely that not all senescent physiological changes revealed in flies can be simply translated to humans. However, flies and humans often show very similar age-related physiological phenotypes suggesting that at least some of the basic biological properties and mechanisms that regulate longevity are conserved amongst species.

It is well-known that advances in medicine and health care have significantly contributed to increased longevity in humans over the last 100 years. There is also a clear trend toward increased life expectancy including an increase in the numbers of people living to an advanced age and the number of people with chronic age-related diseases. These trends emphasize the need to understand the genetic and physiological factors underlying biological aging and particularly, those that promote healthy aging.

There are three ways to extend lifespan: increasing early survival rate, increasing late survival rate, or delaying senescence. Remarkably, the first two do not affect basic aging processes. For example, the first one leads to a significant increase in mean but not maximum lifespan, while the second one leads to change in a maximum but not mean lifespan. Delayed senescence, in turn, leads to a significant increase in both the mean and maximum lifespan.

This raises the question as to whether healthspan and delayed senescence are inter related. As stated above, while many genes have been shown to extend lifespan, these may have little or no ability to delay physiological senescence.

In other words, the period of functional disability before death may increase despite the fact that the total duration of life is increased. Thus, the search for appropriate biomarkers applicable to monitor functional senescence is highly important with regards to healthy aging and age-related diseases." These cautions are very much focused on the mainstream research goals of slowing the rate of aging through genetic and metabolic alterations; they have little relevance to efforts aimed at producing continuous repair of aging.

Cytograft is one of many regenerative science ventures established in the past fifteen years, and a competitor in the space of growing blood vessels: "A lot of people were skeptical when two young California-based researchers set out more than a decade ago to create a completely human-derived alternative to the synthetic blood vessels commonly used in dialysis patients. Since then, they've done that and more. First the team created blood vessels from patients' own skin cells. Then, in June, the company announced that three dialysis patients had received the world's first lab-grown blood vessels made from skin cells from donors, which eliminates the long lead time needed for making vessels from a patient's own cells. And now Cytograft has developed a new technique for making human textiles that promises to reduce the production cost of these vessels by half.

Cytograft's new approach builds on what already has been proved successful. In 2005, the team began extracting fibroblasts from patients' own skin, cultured those cells into thin sheets, rolled up those sheets, cultured them some more so that they would fuse together, and implanted the lab-grown cylindrical vessels. The vessel-growing process was lengthy, at about seven months, but, because the vessels were derived from the patients' own cells, the implants were easily accepted by the patients' bodies, and they held up to the rigors of dialysis, which requires repeated punctures with large-gauge needles.

Then the researchers created allogeneic vessels - ones grown from donor cells - with the hope that they were laying the foundation for an off-the-shelf stockpile of 100 percent human replacement parts. By combining these two methods we could make something that is allogeneic, cheaper to produce, and that you could store forever, meaning that the clinician can pull it off the shelves whenever they want. If it is frozen and allogeneic, that is kind of the homerun."

Via ScienceDaily: researchers "have developed a method of assisting nerves damaged by traumatic accidents to repair naturally, which could improve the chances of restoring sensation and movement in injured limbs.

The team describes a new method for making medical devices called nerve guidance conduits or NGCs. The method is based on laser direct writing, which enables the fabrication of complex structures from computer files via the use of CAD/CAM (computer aided design/manufacturing), and has allowed the research team to manufacture NGCs with designs that are far more advanced than previously possible. Currently patients with severe traumatic nerve damage suffer a devastating loss of sensation and/or movement in the affected limb.

The traditional course of action, where possible, is to surgically suture or graft the nerve endings together. However, reconstructive surgery often does not result in complete recovery. When nerves in the arms or legs are injured they have the ability to re-grow, unlike in the spinal cord; however, they need assistance to do this. We are designing scaffold implants that can bridge an injury site and provide a range of physical and chemical cues for stimulating this regrowth.

Nerves aren't just like one long cable, they're made up of lots of small cables, similar to how an electrical wire is constructed. Using our new technique we can make a conduit with individual strands so the nerve fibers can form a similar structure to an undamaged nerve. Once the nerve is fully regrown, the conduit biodegrades naturally. The team hopes that this approach will significantly increase recovery for a wide range of peripheral nerve injuries."

From the Daily Mail: "The Elixir of Youth has a terribly bad press. As soon as any scientist mentions that they have discovered a way of making fruit flies or worms or even mice live a bit longer and furthermore states that this might, just might, work in humans (after lots of tests, refinements, clinical trials and so on and anyway it is decades away at best, the caveats will be longer than the original research paper), you can bet a small vat of snake oil that the naysayers will soon weigh in.

 'Who wants to live forever? Not me!' one curmudgeonly columnist will opine. 'What would a world be like with all those ancient people walking around, ugh!' will say another writer who, like the first, will have been commissioned mainly on the basis of their own rather advanced years. Because although the bizarre prejudice against anti-aging research runs deep and wide, it doesn't quite run deep and wide enough for it to be all right for someone the right side of forty, say, to opine that the old really should shuffle off and leave the field clear.

Up to now this has been pretty academic as anti-ageing potions have been little more than science fiction but, as an interesting feature in Nature magazine points out, it is beginning to look like a perfect storm of recent serendipitous discoveries and hard-won genetic advanced might - just might - put the holy grail of increasing human lifespan (as opposed to life expectancy, a very different thing) within reach."

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