Survival and Longevity

Longevity News Digest

Funding Aging Research

Survival and Longevity: Why Bother?

Dear Future Centenarian, 

Reason, at, wrote a commentary that I want to share with you. Very insightful food for thought¦ and amazing information. I wish everyone in the world could read this. Here it is:

Live or die: why does it matter to you? Why strive, why bother? The first stoics long ago pointed out that dead is dead; fear dying by all means, but do not fear being nothing. Or, from Epicurus, we have the epitaph "I was not, I was, I am not, I care not."

I recently engaged in a passing conversation with a young lady on the topic of the progress of medical science towards enhanced longevity.

She recognized that medicine was improving but chose to do nothing to improve the odds for her own future - to be a person who will take advantage of future medical advances when they arrive, but who is content to live whatever life and life span falls out of chance and the actions of others.

One wonders if the many people who think and act this way have an accurate picture of the suffering involved in being aged, frail, and decrepit, but it is a common viewpoint.

These folk head towards death in the distance, but feel no urgency, no urge to do anything but die alongside the rest of the herd. Yet when the damage of aging presses its claws in, these are the very same people who, decades from now, will reach out for the best medical help available.

It is a puzzle to me, the absolute contradiction of individuals who intricately plan out finances and life courses for the decades ahead in all matters except helping to build the better medicine that will ease their future. Their view of technological progress is passive, that it is something that just happens, perhaps.

But why be different, why bother? Why survive at all, given the stoic view? Why live? Why put in all this effort for a shot at a life span far longer than the measly four score or so years that is all that most of us would get in the environment of today's medical technology?

That is a question with no answer but the one you fill in yourself, alongside the meaning of life and the laundry list of goals you feel you are here to achieve. It is self-determination all the way down.

In the case of rejuvenation research, there are obvious and compelling reasons to work on technologies to halt and reverse degenerative aging even absent a will to avert death. Rejuvenation treatments are the only long-term reliable solution to prevent the great suffering, pain, and cost that comes with aging while still alive.

Preventing the breakdown of the body is a worthy, useful, and rational goal regardless of your position today on when you'd like to die.

Many young people express the desire to die on the same timescale as their parents, but few are ready to volunteer for heart disease, chronic pain, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease if the question is put to them.

Cryonics and plastination, the preservation of the brain and the mind it contains against a better-equipped future in which restoration is a possibility, has a different dynamic.

Because euthanasia is illegal in much of the world - a squalid state of affairs, in which disinterested bureaucrats force you into an undignified and horrible end simply because they can - cryonics cannot be used to bypass the suffering of aging. Instead the motivation here must be survival, pure and simple. The desire to live and act and see tomorrow's news.

Here's a post on this topic from one of the folk involved in the Brain Preservation Foundation, a group that favors plastination as an approach but runs a technology-agnostic research prize for the best contending approaches, presently vitrification and plastination. It is a reminder that there are as many views on survival as there are people willing to survive:

Brain Preservation: Why Bother? Getting to the Zen of Life

More Life,
David Kekich

Latest Headlines from Fight Aging!

How to Help in the Fight Against Aging - Monday, March 31, 2014
Researcher João Pedro de Magalhães has a good page of suggestions on how to help efforts to produce treatments for - and ultimately defeat - degenerative aging.

As of about a decade ago, the bottom line is largely a matter of funding provided to the right lines of research, those associated with SENS, the strategies for engineered negligible senescence. But there is always a need for the next generation of researchers, and those who can help raise funds and persuade new supporters to join the community.

Read More

Genetics and Epigenetics of Aging and Longevity - Monday, March 31, 2014
Clearly we are going to be hearing a lot about the genetics and epigenetics of aging in the years ahead. The price of biotechnologies in this field has fallen, sequencing and analysis is cheap, and interest in intervening in the aging process is growing.

Sadly, and as I've outlined in past posts, I don't see this as a path towards greatly extending the healthy human life span. Researchers will learn a great deal about how aging progresses, and produce benefits for other areas of medicine, but work on genetic analysis and alteration of epigenetic patterns can only be a hard and complicated path to slowing aging through manipulation of the operation of metabolism.

As an end goal that is of very limited benefit to those of us who will be old before it arrives. Here is an open access review from researchers involved in one of the current commercial ventures focusing on the genetics and epigenetics of aging.

Read More

Working With Very Small Embryonic-Like Stem Cells - Tuesday, April 1, 2014
The existence of very small embryonic-like cells (VSELs) is debated, as while several groups have claimed to isolate them from adult tissues over the past few years, others have failed to replicate this work.
There have been some suggestions that these cells might be created in response to specific stresses - which may or may not be present in a researcher's approach to isolating them - rather than lying dormant in all adult tissues. This is important because if VSELs can be reliably obtained from tissues such as skin they will provide a ready, low-cost source of pluripotent cells for research and therapeutic use.

Here is an open access paper published by another group of researchers who are investigating VSELs and their potential utility for future therapies.

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Associating Arterial Stiffness and β-Amyloid Progression - Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Researchers here show an association between blood vessel stiffening and the deposition of β-amyloid in people who have not yet developed Alzheimer's disease. In general we should not be surprised to see associations between different measurable aspects of aging, as aging is a global phenomenon resulting from a small number of root causes. Thus many of the outcomes proceed in parallel to one another.

Here, however, the causes of stiffness and rising levels of amyloid formation are - so far as we know at present - two somewhat independent groups of processes. So the fact that they associate suggests that vascular dysfunction contributes to Alzheimer's disease, a relationship already suspected from a range of other evidence. Certainly the degeneration of blood vessels with aging is the cause of other forms of dementia.

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A Start on Manipulating the Mechanisms of Nerve Regrowth - Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Researchers are making inroads into understanding and manipulating mechanisms of nerve regrowth so as to improve the outcome following injury.

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A Good Example of Failing to Control for Calorie Intake - Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Calorie restriction has a such a large impact on health that you almost have to disregard any study of health and longevity in laboratory animals that fails to control for it.

Even mild differences in levels of calorie intake can swamp out the effects actually being studied. In humans calorie restriction doesn't have the same dramatic effect on longevity as it does in mice - we'd have noticed by now - but it does produce a dramatic improvement in measures of health. So it is probably past time that we look with suspicion on any study that fails to account for levels of calorie intake.

This work seems like a good example of the type, as the researchers examined dietary habits that most likely correlate strongly with overall calorie intake, but did not control for calorie intake in the analysis.

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The State of Cancer Immunotherapy - Thursday, April 3, 2014
A popular science article on the current state of progress towards therapies for cancer based on mobilizing the immune system to attack cancer cells.

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Cardiac Risks in Youth Associate With Worse Cognitive Function in Later Life - Thursday, April 3, 2014
The publicity materials for this study discuss cardiac risks such as high blood pressure and blood glucose in youth without mentioning how they usually come about.

The most common path towards suffering these danger signs in earlier life is to let yourself become fat and sedentary. Both of these line items are independently associated with greater ill-health and medical expenditure in later life.

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Neuropeptide Y Required for Calorie Restriction Benefits - Friday, April 4, 2014
Researchers uncover proteins necessary to the benefits of calorie restriction by the use of genetic engineering to create lineages of laboratory animals that each lack a specific protein of interest, and then observing the results of calorie restriction for each lineage.

Unlike most such efforts, in this case some of the mechanisms thought important to calorie restriction still function even without neuropeptide Y, the protein in question, but nonetheless life is not extended.

Since calorie restriction changes near everything in metabolism along the way to extending life, it has been difficult to identify which of these myriad changes are required or which contribute the greatest benefit. This work may prove useful to winnow the list of responses to calorie restriction in order to find those most important to health and longevity.

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A Novel Longevity-Associated Genetic Locus in Humans - Friday, April 4, 2014
Finding genetic correlations with longevity in humans is challenging. All results found to date produce only small statistical effects, and very few indeed can be replicated between different study populations.

This suggests that genetic contributions to longevity are diffuse and highly variable. Any single difference contributes very little, and that contribution is contingent on many other differences, such that any given regional population will have a very different map of genetic variations to longevity differences.

Here is a rare example of a more robust association between a genetic locus and longevity, and you'll note that as for other results the statistical effect on mortality is small. The paper is open access, but the full text is PDF only.

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DISCLAIMER:  News summaries are reported by third parties, and there is no guarantee of accuracy. This newsletter is not meant to substitute for your personal due diligence and is not to be taken as medical advice. For originating report, please see

David A. Kekich
Maximum Life Foundation

"Where Biotech, Infotech and Nanotech
     Meet to Reverse Aging by 2033"


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