Healthy Life Extension
Is Your Brain "You?"
Dear Future Centenarian,
I recently had dinner with some close friends who live overseas. One couple live in Europe and the other in Asia. It was a year since the first couple were here and probably over two for the second.
Our discussions were lively to say the least.
International politics; the markets; erosions of privacy as governments grow; potential dangers from the subset of humanity who tend to be more aggressive and who subsequently tend to gain leadership positions; pathological individuals who, either lead, who are influenced by others or who act on their own, who coupled with more easily obtainable weapons of mass destruction, pose an ever-growing threat to us as individuals or to humanity as a whole.
So you can see what implications this could have on life extension, right Methuselah?
The conversations opened and ended with life extension as the main topic. One couple are activists in the cryonics society and the other have a foundation devoted to curing aging.
The items I listed in paragraph two represent some of the existential risks we face while we are alive¦ but especially the risks we face if and when we are in cryonic suspension where we have lost day-to-day control over our fates.
Although I still think preserving the information in our brains via cryonic suspension is our overwhelmingly best back-up plan, a safer alternative may be possible in the intermediate future. That one is plastination. Did you ever see a Body World's exhibit? Here's a fascinating blog that outlines some dramatic peeks into your possible future:
Although I believe low temperature storage gives you a far better chance for reanimation than plastination today, plastination is much more affordable with the added advantage of being able to store your remains anywhere you want and at any temperature... along with the benefit of having them easily transportable. That means, your caretakers can be nimble in protecting you from potential risks.
If and when plastination technology develops to where revival chances rival cryogenic storage, then it should be the clear choice. Meanwhile, I'm betting on Alcor Life Extension Foundation.
As usual, Reason has cogent comments on this critical topic. You can find them at:
Here are some excerpts:
"But even under the most optimistic of scenarios, such as those in which the SENS program for rejuvenation biotechnology is fully funded starting tomorrow, billions will age to death before the research community can develop the first therapies capable of meaningful rejuvenation.
"There is something that can be done to address this issue, for all that almost as little effort is made here as for ways to cure aging: long-term preservation of the dead, accomplished in ways that prevent destruction of the fine structures in the brain that store the mind.
"At present, the only way to preserve your mind on death is through cryonics, or low-temperature storage with vitrification of tissue.
"They can wait out the coming decades, wait out the development of medical nanotechnologies that can reverse the processes of cryopreservation. Time is on their side in this age of rapid progress, assuming that the living community of enthusiasts and professionals can continue to ensure a long-term continuity of service.
"A possible future alternative to cryopreservation is plastination, a different methodology for fixing a cell's structure all the way down to the finest details."
P.S. Today's page in my daily planner says "The first 70 years of my life."
Latest Headlines from Fight Aging!
A Bioprosthetic Heart - Friday, May 31, 2013
New approaches to electromechanical artificial hearts involve the replacement of some portions of the machine with tissue, such as the cow heart tissue used in this case.
The end result is a more durable apparatus that better interfaces with the body, though it's still the case that artificial heart technology cannot replace a biological heart for the long term.
Exercise Versus Peripheral Artery Disease - Friday, May 31, 2013
Some age-related conditions are greatly impacted by exercise, and a sedentary lifestyle is one of the factors raising the risk of suffering these conditions.
Type 2 diabetes is the best known of these, a lifestyle disease that you can actually exercise and diet your way out of if you work at it hard enough. Peripheral artery disease isn't so escapable, being a later stage in the process of deterioration, but exercise is still beneficial to a point comparable to other options for treatment.
Stem Cell Transplants for Leukemia Showing Improved Outcomes - Thursday, May 30, 2013
Researchers recently published a set of encouraging data resulting from the use of stem cell transplants in the treatment of forms of leukemia.
Once a particular new technique is adopted in medical practice, further progress is often a matter of steady incremental improvement. Here that improvement is quite considerable over the past decade, a reflection of the pace of medical science in general.
An Interview With Dmitry Itskov - Thursday, May 30, 2013
Dmitry Itskov is the wealthy businessman who drives the 2045 Initiative, an advocacy and development program aimed at producing artificial replacements for the human body and eventually brain: a life extension plan that involves discarding as much of our biology as rapidly as possible.
This is a stark contrast with other initiatives that aim to remove aging as a cause of death and disability by better maintaining our biology. The Global Futures 2045 conference is taking place in New York a few weeks, hence more media notice has been given to the project of late.
Less Cancer in Long-Lived Families - Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Longevity is inherited to some degree, with the evidence suggesting that the contribution of your genes grows in importance in old age. Prior to that point, your lifestyle choices are far more significant to long-term health.
Nonetheless, some genetic lineages are superior to others when it comes to tilting the odds in favor of a longer life. One of the objectives for longevity science is to make these differences irrelevant, swamping them in the benefits to health and longevity created by therapies capable of rejuvenation.
For example, why would anyone care about inherited cancer risk if clinics could reliably cure or prevent all cancer? No-one cares about the genetic risks associated with influenza or smallpox, and that is exactly because these are controlled, cured conditions.
Fat Tissue Density Predicts Mortality - Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Chronic inflammation appears to be a primary mechanism that links excess adipose tissue, fat in other words, with an increased risk of age-related medical conditions and early death.
Become fat and you suffer far more inflammation than your thin peers, and that has a significant impact on your health over the years, even for comparatively modest gains in weight.
Here researchers demonstrate an association between increased mortality and a specific characteristic of fat tissue that doesn't appear to involve inflammation, however - so there must be other ways in which fat tissue sabotages your health and life expectancy.
Alzheimer's Drug Candidate Provides Benefits in Mice Without Clearing Amyloid Plaques - Tuesday, May 28, 2013
The cancer drug bexarotene has been shown to have potential as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease, at least in mice, but the latest research results show that it isn't working the way that researchers think it should.
Incidentally, this sort of repurposing of an existing drug is a direct consequence of regulatory costs: it is so enormously expensive to go through the already excessive and expanding safety trials required by the US Food and Drug Administration for any new drug that companies prefer to eke out marginal benefits from existing drugs rather than work on building something new and better. This is one of the many ways in which the present state of medical regulation makes medicine worse.
Looking at the Commercial Development of Rapamycin - Tuesday, May 28, 2013
The standard script is being followed for drug development based on rapamycin, by the look of things.
Rapamycin reliably extends life in mice, which is more than can be said for the last set of overhyped alleged longevity-enhancing drugs, but it's still not worth getting excited about this sort of thing.
The most likely end result is a rapamycin-like drug that lacks the worst side-effects, is of marginal benefit to humans, and which is only legally available as a palliative treatment for people suffering late-stage age-related disease - the regulatory environment in the US blocks all other options. Pharmacology to slow aging is simply not a viable path to greatly extended healthy life, and is of very limited use for old people.
Healthspan Campaign - Monday, May 27, 2013
Here is another of the signs that the more conservative advocates for aging research are slowly moving towards a better position on human longevity.
This is a new campaign that's somewhat like the Longevity Dividend, but a touch more ambitious in its tone. If you look at the proposed research agenda, you'll see that it's clearly not the rejuvenation biotechnology of SENS, as the declared aim is still only to slow aging, but it's a step in the right direction. A rising tide floats all boats, and the more that the mainstream of the research community agrees that something can and should be done about aging, the easier it becomes to gain support and funding for rejuvenation research.
Stephen Cave Doesn't Get It - Monday, May 27, 2013
Stephen Cave is the author of an interesting book on the relationship between the desire for immortality and the rise of civilization.
In this short op-ed, however, his argument against the plausibility of radical life extension through progress in medical technology is a bad one, amounting essentially to "it hasn't happened yet, so it won't happen." This is the hallmark of someone who doesn't have a good appreciation of the present state of scientific knowledge.