Extend Your Life, Life Extension

Extend Your Life

Funding Aging Research


posted on February 23, 2009

Did you ever play Whac-A-Mole?

You know, that™s the game where œmoles keep popping up through holes in a board, and the purpose is to whack them on the head with a mallet as fast as you can. The only problem is, no sooner do you whack one, that another pops up from another hole. You can work yourself into a frenzy trying to keep up.

This really ages me, but Whac-A-Mole reminds me of a famous skit from the I Love Lucy show. It must have been televised about 50 years ago. Lucy (Lucille Ball) was working on an assembly line in a candy factory. She was standing behind a conveyor belt, and her job was to package the individual pieces of chocolate as they were delivered to her station.

The only problem was, no matter how fast she put them in boxes, they would come a little faster. Pretty soon, she started popping some in her mouth to keep up the pace. But they came faster still, faster than she could package them and eat them. So her cheeks started filling up until she looked like an overly ambitious chipmunk. It was hilarious to me as a child. But it™s even funnier now that I can appreciate the skit™s reflection of real life.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed, kind of like Lucy?

Maybe your job or business throws you problems faster than you can solve them. Or by the time you answer three emails, five more pop into your inbox. Or do you manage to lose ten pounds, only to gain back eleven? No sooner do you pay your bills then you have another stack. You clean your house, your car, your clothes, yourself, and they get dirty all over again. Sometimes it™s hard to keep up, isn™t it?

And the very technologies that are designed to make life easier often make it more frantic.

All this leads to chronic stress, and chronic stress shortens your life.

Since my purpose is to extend your life, I™d like to identify a common thread that runs through Whac-A-Mole, the Lucy episode and all the overwhelming items I mentioned that lead to stress. In one word, it™s œreaction.

If you want to bring sanity to your life, one of the most anti-aging habits you can adopt is pro-action. Quit reacting to everything around you, and take control, one day at a time.

Outsource or delegate all the endless repetitive tasks to someone better equipped to handle them. Identify what activities give you the most satisfaction, and spend your time on those. You™ll not only boost your health and longevity, but you™ll marvel at how quickly you recharge and how rapidly you prosper as well.


Popular Press on Calorie Restriction (February 19 2009) http://www.houstonpress.com/2009-02-19/news/calorie-restrictors-stay-hungry-in-hopes-of-living-longer/
A mainstream article on calorie restriction from the Houston Press: "More than 1,000 studies dating back 70 years have shown that eating less, a lot less, retards the aging process and boosts health in a wide variety of laboratory animals: fruit flies, spiders, nematodes, mice, rats, dogs and rhesus monkeys. Calorie-restricted monkeys, for instance, look less wrinkled as they age. They have less gray hair, and look and act younger than their regular-diet counterparts. Eating less seems to make the metabolic processes in the body work more efficiently. The body enters an altered state that puts the brakes on aging. In mice, flies and monkeys, that is. Calorie restriction works in the lower organisms, we know. But with humans it's anybody's guess so far. The best guess in the scientific community is that starting a program of calorie restriction in your thirties might add two years. If you start in your forties, it's six months. Start later than that, it's negligible. It could be a few extra weeks." Longevity benefits are currently thought to be minimal, but the health benefits in humans - in terms of resisting age-related disease, for example - are demonstrated to be large whenever you start.

Arguing against the Role of Oxidative Stress (February 19 2009) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090217173040.htm
In this Science Daily release, an unexpected result in worm life span studies is being spun as evidence for oxidative stress not to be important in aging. I believe this is overreaching - it looks much more like a case of one (unexpected) effect that increases life span outweighing the expected effect that decreases life span. These things are never straightforward, however: "For more than 40 years, the prevailing explanation of why we get old has been tied to what is called oxidative stress. This theory postulates that when molecules like free radicals, oxygen ions and peroxides build up in cells, they overwhelm the cells' ability to repair the damage they cause, and the cells age. Collectively, these molecules are known as reactive oxygen species, or ROS for short. They progressively disabled five genes responsible for producing a group of proteins called superoxide dismutases (SODs), which detoxify one of the main ROS. Earlier studies seemed to show that decreased SOD production shortened an organism's lifespan, but [researchers] did not observe this. In fact, they found quite the opposite. It seems that reducing mitochondrial activity by damaging it with ROS will actually make worms live longer."

Aubrey de Grey's Vision (February 18 2009) http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/02/aging-is-it-opt.html
The Daily Galaxy outlines Aubrey de Grey's vision for the defeat of aging and age-related disease: "Some people look forward to dying. But de Grey says that's only because we all believe getting old and frail is inevitable - something he refers to as the 'pro-aging trance' society is currently 'trapped' in. De Grey's version of the future is where everyone can stay perpetually healthy and young through a combination of innovative longevity sciences, and he believes it will be more affordable alternative to caring for elderly, frail bodies. He has nothing against old people, he just thinks people should have the option to avoid aging and death if they want to. There could be other benefits, as well. He says people would welcome eternity if they understood the benefits. If we want to hit the high points, number one is, there will not be any frail elderly people. Which means we won't be spending all this unbelievable amount of money keeping all those frail elderly people alive for like one extra year the way we do at the moment. That money will be available to spend on important things like, well, obviously, providing the health care to keep us that way, but that won't be anything like so expensive."

Telomere Length More Complex than Thought (February 17 2009) http://cordis.europa.eu/fetch?CALLER=EN_NEWS&ACTION=D&RCN=30470
As for everything else in our biochemistry, the shortening of telomeres with age is more complex than we'd like it to be: researchers "have shown that the shortening of telomeres, the protective structures at the end of chromosomes, as people age varies between individuals and depends on the telomeres' original length. Although prior population studies have indicated that telomeres might be used to predict lifespan, the new research shows that the process is in fact much more complicated than had previously been assumed. [researchers] investigated the shortening of telomeres in 959 individuals who had donated blood samples at 9- to 11-year intervals. While the shortening rate was strongly correlated with the initial length of the telomeres, it was not related to later tumor development. In roughly a third of the subjects, the telomeres actually lengthened over the study period. Those with the longest telomeres at the first blood draw demonstrated the most pronounced telomere shortening over time, and vice versa. The results indicate that the telomere-maintenance machinery protects the shortest telomeres. However, other factors are likely to influence the rate of shortening as well. Telomere length at first blood draw could only explain 57% of the variation in the rate of shortening; 43% remains to be accounted for, and may well include lifestyle factors, oxidative stress or inflammation."

Investigating the Mole Rat (February 17 2009) http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2009/February/16020901.asp
From Chemistry World, a look at naked mole rats, which "can live for up to 30 years, far longer than the 3 year average life span of a laboratory mouse. Traditionally, aging in mammals is attributed to oxidative damage of cells, caused by reaction with inhaled oxygen. Levels of oxidative stress in young naked mole rats were actually higher than in mice - but that although naked mole rats have high levels of oxidative damage, these stay the same throughout their lifetime. In most animals you get an accumulation of oxidative damage with age, but with mole rats, young and old animals have the same protein profile. The mole rats have between two to ten times more oxidative damage in all tissues than mice, and yet they live another 26 years with this damage. The rats are able to maintain functionality because they effective mop up damaged proteins in cells. For example, Buffenstein found that, in mice, the liver enzyme GAPDH decreased in activity as the animals aged. However, in naked mole rats, the same enzyme maintained its activity over a 24 year life span. Oxidative damage is not the be all and end all of aging. It's rather tolerance to damage and finding ways to cope with those stresses without impacting on functionality that are more important."

Mitochondria Gone Bad (February 16 2009) http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/40762/title/Mitochondria_Gone_Bad
Science News surveys the role of accumulating mitochondrial damage and dysfunction in aging and age-related disease: "Today, scientists suspect that millions of people may be suffering from mitochondria gone awry, in more subtle but nonetheless insidious forms. Evidence suggests that malfunctioning mitochondria could explain Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and other consequences of aging. Given the organelle's core function in the body, some think mitochondria might even be the biological epicenter of aging itself: If you live long enough, all your cells might experience a kind of energy crisis. I strongly believe that mitochondrial metabolism is the key to aging. In Mattson's view, and that of other researchers who suspect that people are only as young as their mitochondria, mild amounts of stress force mitochondria to make better use of the glucose available - whether that stress is from calorie restriction or another source. Stress also causes cells to produce proteins that protect the mitochondria from free radical damage. And Mattson points out that other conditions that strain energy production - such as physical and mental activity - also appear to strengthen tissues at the same time."

An Update on Cuervo's Autophagy Research (February 16 2009) http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2008/08/11/2331197.htm

You might recall the research by Cuervo's group demonstrating a restoration of youthful levels of autophagy in mouse livers. We know that autophagy is important to longevity: it clears out biochemical junk and damaged cellular components, of which the most important are probably damaged mitochondria. Furthermore, autophagy is enhanced by calorie restriction, and appears necessary for the longevity benefits of calorie restriction to take place. The most interesting tidbit from this ABC News article is that it looks like Cuervo's method of restoring autophagy levels does in fact increase life span (as measured by survival rates at various ages) in mice: "In experiments, livers in genetically modified mice 22 to 26 months old, the equivalent of octogenarians in human years, cleaned blood as efficiently as those in animals a quarter their age. By contrast, the livers of normal mice in a control group began to fail. While her paper does not show increased survival rates among the mice, le Couteur, who has advised her recently on the research, says Cuervo does have data on improved survival rates which she intends to publish. He also says she is now working with pharmaceutical companies to identify drugs that will turn the receptors on, or make them more active. Cuervo believes maintaining efficient protein clearance may improve longevity and function in all the body's tissues."

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