Healthy Life Extension
Aging will be Cured Overnight
posted on September 25th, 2012
Dear Future Centenarian,
History provides us with some interesting examples of rapid technological innovation that have parallels to the present situation in biotechnology, medicine, and human longevity says Reason at Fight Aging. Steady progress is suddenly replaced with a great leap forward in capacity and quality.
The cautious majority believes that human life span will continue to increase, but only incrementally, much as it has done for the past few decades - both life expectancy at birth and life expectancy after 60, due to the continued introduction of new medical technologies. (Which proceeds far more slowly than it could, thanks to the heavy hand of the state).
One faction of epidemiologists even argues for the possibility of a dip in overall life expectancy as present trends in obesity take their toll. To their eyes the consequences of being overweight look to outweigh modest gains due to advances in medicine.
To my mind, arguing for incrementalism in any trend relating to medicine at the present time is choosing to go against the tide. The biotechnologies that underpin advances in medicine are going through a period of massive, revolutionary change.
While it is true that organizations such as the FDA do pretty much everything short of shooting scientists to slow down and increase the cost of turning research into therapies, the rapid pace of progress in the life sciences will win through.
Allow me to put forward a historical analogy: Standing in 2012 and arguing a case for gentle future changes in life expectancy over the next few decades, based on the past few decades, is something like standing in 1885 or so and arguing that speed and convenience of passenger travel will steadily and gently increase in the decades ahead.
The prognosticator of the mid-1880s could look back at steady progress in the operating speed of railways and similar improvement in steamships throughout the 19th century. He would be aware of the prototyping of various forms of engine that promised to allow carriages to reliably proceed at the pace of trains, and the first frail airships that could manage a fair pace in flight - though by no means the equal of speed by rail.
Like our present era however, the end of the 19th century was a time of very rapid progress and invention in comparison to the past. In such ages trends are broken and exceeded. Thus within twenty years of the first crudely powered and fragile airships, heavier than air flight launched in earnest: a revolutionary change in travel brought on by the blossoming of a completely new branch of applied technology.
By the late 1920s, the aircraft of the first airlines consistently flew four to five times as fast as the operating speed of trains in 1880, and new lines of travel could be set up for a fraction of the cost of a railway. Little in the way of incrementalism there: instead a great and sweeping improvement accomplished across a few decades and through the introduction of a completely new approach to the problem.
This is one of many historical examples of discontinuities in gentle trends brought about by fundamentally new technologies. Returning to the medicine of the present day, there are any number of lines of work we could point to as analogous to the embryonic component technologies of an aircraft in 1885. They are still in the lab, or only being trialed, or still under development - but they exist in great numbers.
There are the SENS technologies; a range of advanced applications of immunotherapy; targeting methodologies to safely destroy specific cell types; organ engineering; and others. Just because we can't see the exact shape of the emerging technologies that will be constructed atop these foundations doesn't make them any less likely to be created.
And don™t forget that biology is quickly morphing into information technology. Information technologies now double in power every year. That means a thousand more times as powerful in 10 years¦ a million times as powerful in 20!
Great changes are coming down the line in medicine. The future is not one of steady and incremental progress.
LATEST HEADLINES FROM FIGHT AGING!
GENETIC HOTSPOTS FOR DISEASES OF AGING Friday, September 21, 2012
Some interesting results from genetic research: scientists "have shown definitively that a small number of places in the human genome are associated with a large number and variety of diseases.
In particular, several diseases of aging are associated with a locus which is more famous for its role in preventing cancer.Â For this analysis, [researchers] cataloged results from several hundred human Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) from the National Human Genome Research Institute. These results provided an unbiased means to determine if varied different diseases mapped to common 'hotspot' regions of the human genome.
A LOOK AT THE ALLEN INSTITUTE FOR BRAIN SCIENCE Friday, September 21, 2012
A comprehensive understanding of the brain is an important line item for future medical development, as the research community will have to develop ways to repair the brain and reverse aspects of its aging while preserving the structures that encode the mind.
Here is a look at one of the higher profile projects of recent years: "Paul Allen, the 59-year-old Microsoft cofounder [has] plowed $500 million into the Allen Institute for Brain Science, a medical Manhattan Project that he hopes will dwarf his contribution as one of the founding fathers of software.
CORRELATING PROGRESSIVE FRAILTY IN AGING WITH PARENTAL LONGEVITY Thursday, September 20, 2012
A nice demonstration of the degree to which the pace of aging is inherited - but remember that for the vast majority of us, lifestyle choices have more influence than genes, while progress in medical technology trumps all such concerns:
"Various measures incorporated in geriatric assessment have found their way into frailty indices (FIs), which have been used as indicators of survival/mortality and longevity. Our goal is to understand the genetic basis of healthy aging to enhance its evidence base and utility.
USING FRUIT FLIES TO STUDY IMMUNE SYSTEM AGING Thursday, September 20, 2012
An open access review paper that looks at the use of fruit flies in studying the details of immune system aging:
"Aging is a complex process that involves the accumulation of deleterious changes resulting in overall decline in several vital functions, leading to the progressive deterioration in physiological condition of the organism and eventually causing disease and death. The immune system is the most important host-defense mechanism in humans and is also highly conserved in insects.
CALORIE RESTRICTION GREATLY SLOWS PROTEIN TURNOVER Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Examination of the sweeping low-level changes in biochemistry brought on by calorie restriction continues apace: "Calorie restriction (CR) promotes longevity. A prevalent mechanistic hypothesis explaining this CR effect suggests that protein degradation, including mitochondrial autophagy, is increased, thereby removing damaged proteins.
A DIFFERENT VIEW OF AGING Wednesday, September 19, 2012
This author defines aging as "an age-dependent trajectory of interacting system states - the sum of all molecular and physiological states and their interaction networks, many but not all of which shift in a consistent direction over time.
This definition broadens our focus to include components that do not themselves depend on age, but which cohabit networks containing components that do. Gene-environment interactions are a case in point, wherein environmental variation can help to shape the age-structure of a population despite being quite obviously independent of age.
LONGEVITY IN MAMMALS AS A WAY TO EXTEND LIFE OF MALE OFFSPRING Tuesday, September 18, 2012
The members of a number of mammal species, ourselves included, live long past their reproductive years. The question would be why this postreproductive longevity has evolved: what advantage does it confer?
For humans, the grandmother hypothesis suggests that it has something to do with enhancing the survival of grandchildren, but this is debated. Here, researchers look at killer whales to argue that the advantage lies in enhanced survival of the male children of long-lived mothers:
A REVIEW OF VASCULAR AGING Tuesday, September 18, 2012
An open access paper: "'Man is as old as his arteries.' This old aphorism has been widely confirmed by epidemiological and observational studies establishing that cardiovascular diseases can be age-related in terms of their onset and progression.
Besides, with aging come a number of physiological and morphological changes that alters cardiovascular function and lead to subsequently increased risk of cardiovascular disease, even in health asymptomatic individuals.
3RD WORLD CONGRESS ON TARGETING MITOCHONDRIA, NOVEMBER 2012 Monday, September 17, 2012
Progress towards ways to repair mitochondria is very important: a way to fix our age-damaged mitochondria is a necessary part of any toolbox of therapies capable of reversing aging. An upcoming conference provides some insight into the present state of research:
"After the success of the two first editions held in 2010 & 2011, the Scientific Committee of the International Society of Antioxidants in Nutrition and Health (ISANH) decided to organize the 3rd World Congress on Targeting Mitochondria which will be held in Berlin in November 8-9, 2012.
PROGRESS IN TAILOR-MADE ORGANS Monday, September 17, 2012
A popular science article on recent progress in organ engineering: "Implanting such a 'bioartificial' organ would be a first-of-its-kind procedure for the field of regenerative medicine, which for decades has been promising a future of ready-made replacement organs - livers, kidneys, even hearts - built in the laboratory.
For the most part that future has remained a science-fiction fantasy. Now, however, researchers like Dr. Macchiarini are building organs with a different approach, using the body's cells and letting the body itself do most of the work.