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On Attacking Cancer Stem Cells

Posted: April 30, 2010 at 8:16 am


This EurekAlert! release looks at some of the challenges facing the increasing number of research groups who are attempting to destroy cancer stem cells: "Many of the colon cancer cells that form tumors can be killed by genetically short-circuiting the cells' ability to absorb a key nutrient, a new study has found. While the findings are encouraging, the test tube study using human colon cancer cells also illustrates the difficulty of defeating these cells, known as cancer stem cells (CSCs). ... It is becoming more evident that only a small number of cells in the tumor are capable of forming the tumor, namely the cancer stem cell. So the new strategy is to eliminate the cancer stem cells and thus lower the recurrence of cancer. ... Because CSCs have properties similar to normal stem cells, we have to find a way to attack them while keeping the adult stem cells alive. ... To do that, the research team inactivated a receptor that is found in increased amounts in colon cancer cells: the insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-1R). The colon cancer CSCs seem to need a fair amount of IGF to live, more than other cells, and they can't function without the IGF receptor. ... Working with human colon cancer cells, the researchers manipulated the cellular genetics using small interfering RNA (siRNA) to prevent the synthesis of IGF-1R. In this way, they reduced the number of IGF receptors by half, and reduced the number of CSCs by 35%."

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-04/foas-ras042210.php

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

On the Pope’s Opposition to Engineered Longevity

Posted: at 8:16 am


From TechNewsWorld: "During his homily this Easter, Pope Benedict argued that medical science, in trying to defeat death, is leading humanity toward likely condemnation. It's a position at odds with the value of life, one that the Church will likely revise years from now, replaying the institution's embarrassment over censoring Galileo. ... If scientists are successful in finding techniques to rebuild cartilage, repair organs, and cure cancer, people will indeed be living longer - but they will also be healthier, more energetic and youthful. Health-extension, when it happens, will allow people to live longer, better. Consider that 60-year-olds today are not in the same shape as their counterparts were in the 1800s or 1900s. As humans discovered how to take better care of themselves, through improved nutrition, the use of antibiotics and other techniques, 'chronological age' became less synonymous with 'biological age.' That is, many of today's 60-year-olds act and feel much younger than one might expect. The average human life expectancy today is close to 80 years but in 1850, it was 43 years, and in 1900 it was 48 years. One can imagine someone in 1850 arguing that doubling life expectancy would be terrible, because innovation might be at risk and there would be more old people around. But would anyone today say they are sorry that science made it possible to live longer and healthier lives?"

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.technewsworld.com/story/Galileo-20-Here-Comes-Another-Apology-69876.html

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

Latest Cell Therapy Approval by FDA. Dendreon’s Provenge.

Posted: at 8:16 am


It has been a long-time coming. It has been hyped and scoffed, bet against and hoped for, but now none of that matters. It's here. Dendreon has brought Provenge to market. Here, in the word's of the FDA...

FDA NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: April 29, 2010

FDA Approves a Cellular Immunotherapy for Men with Advanced Prostate Cancer

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Provenge (sipuleucel-T), a new therapy for certain men with advanced prostate cancer that uses their own immune system to fight the disease.

Provenge is indicated for the treatment of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and is resistant to standard hormone treatment.

Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men in the United States, behind skin cancer, and usually occurs in older men. In 2009, an estimated 192,000 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed and about 27,000 men died from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“The availability of Provenge provides a new treatment option for men with advanced prostate cancer, who currently have limited effective therapies available,” said Karen Midthun, M.D., acting director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

Provenge is an autologous cellular immunotherapy, designed to stimulate a patient’s own immune system to respond against the cancer. Each dose of Provenge is manufactured by obtaining a patient’s immune cells from the blood, using a machine in a process known as leukapheresis. To enhance their response against the cancer, the immune cells are then exposed to a protein that is found in most prostate cancers, linked to an immune stimulating substance. After this process, the patient’s own cells are returned to the patient to treat the prostate cancer. Provenge is administered intravenously in a three-dose schedule given at about two-week intervals.

The effectiveness of Provenge was studied in 512 patients with metastatic hormone treatment refractory prostate cancer in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial, which showed an increase in overall survival of 4.1 months. The median survival for patients receiving Provenge treatments was 25.8 months, as compared to 21.7 months for those who did not receive the treatment.

Almost all of the patients who received Provenge had some type of adverse reaction. Common adverse reactions reported included chills, fatigue, fever, back pain, nausea, joint ache and headache. The majority of adverse reactions were mild or moderate in severity. Serious adverse reactions, reported in approximately one quarter of the patients receiving Provenge, included some acute infusion reactions and stroke. Cerebrovascular events, including hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes, were observed in 3.5 percent of patients in the Provenge group compared with 2.6 percent of patients in the control group.

Provenge is manufactured by Seattle-based Dendreon Corp.

http://www.celltherapyblog.com hosted by http://www.celltherapygroup.com

An Interview With the Departing Sirtris CEO

Posted: April 29, 2010 at 8:17 am


An interesting article: "In what turned out to be his final official engagement as CEO of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, Christoph Westphal offered some key lessons in how to build a successful biotech company ... It's pretty amazing ... in the last 20 years, we've gone from zero understanding of the genes that play a role in aging to a pretty clear understanding that IGF1 plays a role, MTOR, the Sirtuins play a role, there's 10-15 genes play a role. Many of those are going to be druggable targets. Will Sirtris be successful? I don't know. It's still going to be very risky. But I'll be shocked if there are not drugs in the next 10-15 years that target genes that control aging. ... Westphal did not shirk from addressing the ongoing controversy surrounding the physiological activity of some Sirtris compounds. ... There's a debate in the academic world. We don't know the specific molecular mechanism of why you need a specific substrate on the in vitro screen to find Sirt1 activators. ... It's a numbers game and it's gotten harder with the FDA ... People are spending less on pharma R&D and more on consumer health care and trying to diversify into developing countries and away from Europe and the United States. Fewer drugs are getting approved, revenues are going down, margins are going to go down."

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.bio-itworld.com/news/04/26/10/Christoph-Westphal-on-aging-pharmageddon.html

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

One of Many Oddities in Aging and Longevity

Posted: at 8:17 am


Scientists proceed in their work by discovering a correlation and then picking apart the underlying mechanisms to find out why the correlation exists. In the field of aging research a great many as yet unexplained correlations exist, any one of which may point the way to important new knowledge. Take this for example: "Biological rhythms that oscillate with periods close to 24 h (circadian cycles) are pervasive features of mammalian physiology, facilitating entrainment to the 24 h cycle generated by the rotation of the Earth. In the absence of environmental time cues, circadian rhythms default to their endogenous period called tau, or the free-running period. This sustained circadian rhythmicity in constant conditions has been reported across the animal kingdom, a ubiquity that could imply that innate rhythmicity confers an adaptive advantage. In this study, we found that the deviation of tau from 24 h was inversely related to the lifespan in laboratory mouse strains, and in other rodent and primate species. These findings support the hypothesis that misalignment of endogenous rhythms and 24 h environmental cycles may be associated with a physiological cost that has an effect on longevity."

View the Article Under Discussion: http://pmid.us/20392719

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

Progress in Adoptive Immunotherapy

Posted: April 28, 2010 at 8:15 am


Via EurekAlert!: "Adoptive immunotherapy is targeted to situations when the immune system fails to detect a disease [such as cancer]. The adoptive immunotherapy strategy is to harvest T cells from the patient, engineer them to spot the disease and then send them back in, like police detectives with a reliable tip. A major drawback, however, has been that the T cells still need to call for back-up forces from a variety of other cell types in the body, but they can't. They die out quickly without doing enough good. The new approach is to further engineer the T cells to be able to support themselves rather than relying on other immune cells [and] to insert the ability to switch that self-support on or off, to ensure that they don't grow out of control. That way, the T cells can persist in fighting the disease without becoming a cancer themselves. ... This is an integration of a cell-based therapy application with new synthetic biology tools that have come up from foundational research. ... Generally, the results showed that their engineering produced healthier, faster-growing populations of the T cells, until the drugs were withdrawn and growth shut down. In the human cell cultures, for example, the technology led to a 24 percent increase in the live T-cell population compared to controls and 50 percent fewer cells dying off."

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-04/sumc-ntr042110.php

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

The Cost of Negligence

Posted: at 8:15 am


From MSNBC: "Four common bad habits combined - smoking, drinking too much, inactivity and poor diet - can age you by 12 years, sobering new research suggests. The findings are from a study that tracked nearly 5,000 British adults for 20 years, and they highlight yet another reason to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Overall, 314 people studied had all four unhealthy behaviors. Among them, 91 died during the study, or 29 percent. Among the 387 healthiest people with none of the four habits, only 32 died, or about 8 percent. ... The risky behaviors were: smoking tobacco; downing more than three alcoholic drinks per day for men and more than two daily for women; getting less than two hours of physical activity per week; and eating fruits and vegetables fewer than three times daily. These habits combined substantially increased the risk of death and made people who engaged in them seem 12 years older than people in the healthiest group ... The findings don't mean that everyone who maintains a healthy lifestyle will live longer than those who don't, but it will increase the odds." This study joins many others in putting a number on the harm we do to ourselves by failing to keep up with the health basics.

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36786312/ns/health-aging/

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

Stem cells for a Webby!

Posted: at 8:15 am


I know I haven't been a very good blogger for quite some time but I wanted to pass on a letter I just received from my friend James Price as a Charter member of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. They're going for a Webby award. You don't have to be Canadian to support their cause - you just have to:

  • believe in the power of interactive, online network-based activism,
  • support the potential of stem cells to change people's lives, and
  • wanna have a little fun raising awareness for our otherwise-sometimes-stodgy-science!

Go vote - it's good for you and the world! (WARNING: you might find out some things about some pretty cool stuff nominated in the other categories while you're there).

CSCFHeader

Dear Lee,

I'd like to thank everyone who has voted and helped spread the word about the Webby Awards nomination. We think a big part of the Foundation's success, and especially this nomination, is due to your enthusiasm, creativity and support.

That support has taken us a long way. Right now, we're in the lead for Best Activism Website. But our lead is narrow, only 3%, so we need you to pull out all the stops. There are only two days left to vote, so let's make sure it's a win for stem cells!

Why Activism?

A large part of what makes our website and social media pages work is the Charter community. All the material we create - the Stem Cell Charter, "Rock Star Scientists" video and all the posts on our social media pages - are designed to give the stem cell movement a voice - your voice. You are the most important part of getting the word out about stem cell science and helping people see the amazing potential of the field.

Voting and encouraging others to vote is a perfect way to do this. Tweet, post, blog, email and shout your support from the rooftops. Let's show the world how important we think stem cell science is.

How to vote

Step 1: Click HERE and fill in your email address and a password.

Step 2: You will receive an email from the Webby Awards - click the link to activate your account.

Step 3: Go HERE TO VOTE and choose RENEW THE WORLD.

Voting closes at midnight on April 29th. We have two days left!

webby banner

Thanks for your support,


James Price
President & CEO



http://www.celltherapyblog.com hosted by http://www.celltherapygroup.com

Sarcopenia, Metabolic Syndrome, and Overnutrition

Posted: April 27, 2010 at 8:17 am


This paper outlines the overlap between the ways in which both processes of aging and eating too much lead to the loss of muscle mass and strength: "Sarcopenia, which is defined by the loss of skeletal muscle mass, predisposes skeletal muscle to metabolic dysfunction which can precipitate metabolic disease. Similarly, overnutrition, which is a major health problem in modern society, also causes metabolic dysfunction in skeletal muscle and predisposition to metabolic disease. It is now the prevailing view that both aging and overnutrition negatively impact skeletal muscle metabolic homeostasis through deleterious effects on the mitochondria. Accordingly, interplay between the molecular pathways implicated in aging and overnutrition that induce mitochondrial dysfunction are apparent. Recent work from our laboratory has uncovered the stress-responsive mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphatase-1 (MKP-1) as a new player in the regulation of metabolic homeostasis in skeletal muscle and mitochondrial dysfunction caused by overnutrition. These observations raise the intriguing possibility that MKP-1 may function as a common target in the convergence between sarcopenia and overnutrition in a pathophysiological pathway that leads to a loss of skeletal muscle mitochondrial function." Going the other way, you might recall that calorie restriction helps to maintain muscle mass with age.

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.impactaging.com/papers/v2/n3/full/100135.html

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

A Look at Progress in Cancer Vaccines

Posted: at 8:17 am


Nature looks at the chaotic state of bringing cancer vaccines to trial: "Many first-generation cancer vaccines such as PANVAC, a pancreatic cancer vaccine, were deemed safe but failed to demonstrate that they significantly slowed the progression of cancer. Because cancer-associated antigens - such as those used in Provenge - are also found at low levels in healthy tissue, their ability to trigger a powerful immune response may be blunted. A second generation of vaccines, designed to provoke a stronger immune response, is under development, with some scientists now focusing on antigens that are found only on tumour cells. ... Over the past decade, researchers have reached a deeper understanding of how tumours actively suppress immune responses in their immediate environment, which can dampen responses to cancer vaccines. To overcome this, some therapies currently in development combine the vaccine with chemotherapies that are designed to counteract this immune suppression. ... For some in the field, the struggle to create effective cancer vaccines conjures up memories of the long battle to develop antibody-based therapies, which are now a mainstay of the biotechnology industry. There, too, a series of clinical-trial failures initially soured the field's reputation ... We realized you just have to test a lot of drugs to find one that works, and it's the same for a cancer vaccine."

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100421/full/4641110a.html

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

Beetroot Juice May Boost Stamina

Posted: at 8:17 am


(HealthDay News) -- Beetroot juice can boost physical stamina and increase exercise endurance by up to 16 percent, a new British study shows.

The researchers found that nitrate in beetroot juice reduces oxygen uptake to a degree that can't be achieved by any other means. The findings could benefit endurance athletes, elderly people and those with cardiovascular, respiratory or metabolic diseases, the study authors suggest.

The study included eight men, aged 19 to 38, who drank 500 milliliters a day of organic beetroot juice for six consecutive days. They then completed a series of tests on an exercise bike. The same tests were repeated after the men drank the same amount of a placebo (blackcurrant cordial) for six days.

After drinking the beetroot juice, the men were able to cycle for an average of 11.25 minutes -- 92 seconds longer than after consuming the placebo drink. The men also had a lower resting blood pressure after they drank the beetroot juice, the researchers found.

The study was published Aug. 6 in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Read more...



Joint Mender for Joint Care

Biomarker Studies Could Realize Goal of More Effective and Personalized Cancer Medicine

Posted: at 8:17 am


When President Richard Nixon launched the war on cancer in his January 1971 State of the Union, he called for "the same kind of concentrated effort that split the atom and took man to the moon." Yet nearly 40 years and $100 billion in federally funded cancer research later, it seems the lunar landing was a much less daunting task.

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Sessions on CSC Therapeutics at AACR10

Posted: at 8:17 am


There were two poster sessions on Cancer Stem Cell Therapeutics at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). The sessions, Cancer Stem Cell Therapeutics 1 and Cancer Stem Cell Therapeutics 2, took place on the morning and afternoon of April 20, 2010 [FriendFeed entry].

Two posters presented in the 2nd session have been highlighted in a news release. See: Alchemia’s HyACT Technology Enhances the Killing of Cancer Stem Cell Populations in Breast and Colorectal Cancer, Business Wire, April 20, 2010 [FriendFeed entry]. One of these is Poster #4293: Evaluation of activated CD44 as a biological target in the eradication of breast cancer stem cells, by Vera J Evtimov and Tracey J Brown [Presentation Abstract]. The other is Poster #4278: HA-Irinotecan targeting of activated CD44 is an effective therapy for the eradication of putative colon cancer stem cells [Presentation Abstract].

Longevity Meme Newsletter, April 26 2010

Posted: April 26, 2010 at 8:15 am


LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
April 26 2010

The Longevity Meme Newsletter is a weekly email containing news, opinions, and happenings for people interested in aging science and engineered longevity: making use of diet, lifestyle choices, technology, and proven medical advances to live healthy, longer lives. This newsletter is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. In short, this means that you are encouraged to republish and rewrite it in any way you see fit, the only requirements being that you provide attribution and a link to the Longevity Meme.

To subscribe or unsubscribe from the Longevity Meme Newsletter, please visit http://www.longevitymeme.org/newsletter/

______________________________

CONTENTS

- The Revealed Slow Aging Hypothesis
- The State of Innate Immune Therapies for Cancer
- Quantifying the Harm Done by Cytomegalovirus
- Recent Longevity Study Results
- Discussion
- Latest Healthy Life Extension Headlines

THE REVEALED SLOW AGING HYPOTHESIS

An interesting idea, albeit hard to prove one way or another at this stage of our progress in biotechnology:

http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2010/04/the-revealed-slow-aging-hypothesis.php

"To what degree might we attribute the accelerating rise in human life span in recent centuries to an increased survival rate for people who bear gene variants that (a) harm the prospects for survival to adulthood in low-technology settings, but (b) lead to a longer life expectancy for those who do survive?"

THE STATE OF INNATE IMMUNE THERAPIES FOR CANCER

The transplant of leukocyte or granulocyte immune cells has shown great promise in destroying even advanced cancer, but little work is being done to bring this from the laboratory to the clinic:

http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2010/04/the-state-of-leukocyte-or-granulocyte-transplants-to-kill-cancer.php

"You might recall that people were enthused a few years back over the work of researcher Zheng Cui, who showed that (a) one breed of lab mice shug off cancer because their immune cells are different in ways that enable them to kill cancer dead, (b) transplanting those immune cells into more vulnerable mice also kills cancer dead, and (c) this same state of affairs exists in humans. Somewhere, someone has an immune system that can kill your cancer. If you could find them and undergo a transplant of leukocyte or granulocyte immune cells, the evidence to date suggests that this would be a very effective therapy. As put by the folk at Livly, a non-profit startup focused on bringing this form of therapy into the clinic: Results like this suggest to us that innate immunotherapy is the only approach that has shown the promise to permanently cure advanced cancer. Ironically, it is also one of the most neglected areas in contemporary research."

QUANTIFYING THE HARM DONE BY CYTOMEGALOVIRUS

Nearly all of us have cytomegalovirus (CMV) lurking in our bodies by the time we are old, and it is one of the reasons why our immune systems decline dramatically with advancing age:

http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2010/04/quantifying-the-harm-done-by-cytomegalovirus.php

"Most people are exposed to this mild persistent herpesvirus over the course of their life; it causes few obvious symptoms, but over time more and more of your immune system resources become uselessly specialized to fight it. An immune cell dedicated to remembering the signature of CMV is unavailable for other uses - and eventually you run out of cells to protect you from new threats, destroy cancers, and clear out senescent cells.

"A CMV fixation should be thought of as yet another form of malfunction or misconfiguration of the immune system, to be put in the same broad category as autoimmune diseases. Some of the research efforts directed towards repairing autoimmune disease may in the future also be turned towards repairing a CMV-specialized immune system. For example, researchers have successfully rebooted the immune system in human patients in recent years: completely destroying and then recreating it in order to remove all immune cells with errant programming. Another possibility is the use of targeted cell killing technologies that can pick out and destroy CMV-specialized immune cells based on their surface markers."

RECENT LONGEVITY STUDY RESULTS

Some examples from recent studies of genetic components of human longevity:

http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2010/04/a-few-recent-longevity-study-results.php

"More genetic and other studies of long-lived people are taking place these days, which means a faster flow of results than has been the case in past years. Part of that can no doubt be attributed to an increased interest in manipulating the aging process in the scientific community, as well as the continually falling cost of the tools needed to run such studies. ... There are an unknown but almost certainly large number of small contributory factors making up the genetic component of human longevity, and they are being uncovered at an accelerating pace. What does this all mean for you and I? Probably very little. We will not gain greatly extended longevity through tinkering with our haplotypes - by the time genetic tweaks are happening in the clinic, we will be old. Changes to metabolism that make a year or two's difference in life span across an entire lifetime will be next to worthless to someone already in late life, and already seriously damaged by aging. We should welcome the advances in practice and understanding of human biology and aging, because all such information will at some point be useful, but we must also recognize that genetic alterations to slow aging are not the path to extending our own lives. We must instead focus on the repair of age-related changes, such as that proposed by the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence."

http://www.longevitymeme.org/topics/strategies_for_engineered_negligible_senescence.cfm

DISCUSSION

The highlights and headlines from the past week follow below. If you have comments for us, please do send e-mail to newsletter@longevitymeme.org

Remember - if you like this newsletter, the chances are that your friends will find it useful too. Forward it on, or post a copy to your favorite online communities. Encourage the people you know to pitch in and make a difference to the future of health and longevity!

Reason
reason@longevitymeme.org

______________________________

LATEST HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION HEADLINES

EXERCISE AND ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE (April 23 2010)
http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/vnl.cfm?id=4695
More evidence for the benefits of exercise: "Researchers from the University of Washington conducted a six-month clinical trial with 33 participants, 17 of whom were women. All showed early signs of Alzheimer's disease and were between the ages of 55 and 85. The experiment participants underwent a six-month intensive aerobic training program, spending 45 minutes to an hour four times each week on a stationary bicycle or treadmill. At the end of the six months, the participants saw improvement in mental agility, while the control group showed no improvement. Researchers are planning further studies to conduct larger and longer duration trials, following volunteers for years instead of months, for more conclusive data as to whether exercise can prevent full-blown cases of Alzheimer's. ... Other similar studies have been conducted, where researchers have measured the health benefits of resistance training for women between the ages of 65 and 75 who are most at risk for developing Alzheimer's. In one study, after one year of training, women who had completed the training showed better scores on mental acuity and conflict resolution tests than those who didn't."

POLITICS AND HISTORICAL ASPIRATIONS TO ENGINEERED LONGEVITY (April 23 2010)
http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/vnl.cfm?id=4694
Possibly an example of overthinking the issue at the JET, but the section on Finot illustrates that our era does not enjoy a monopoly on rational thinking about extending the healthy human life span: "The beginning of the modern period in the pursuit of radical human enhancement and longevity can be traced to fin-de-siecle/early twentieth-century scientific and technological optimism and therapeutic activism. The works of several authors of the period - Fedorov, Stephens, Bogdanov, Nietzsche and Finot - reveal conflicting ideological and social pathways toward the goals of human enhancement and life extension. Each author represents a particular existing social order, and his vision of human advancement may be seen as a continuation and extension of that order. Therefore, the pursuit of life extension may be considered a fundamentally conservative (or conservationist) enterprise. ... First, these adaptations may question the claims of a particular ideology for supremacy in the promotion of life-extension and life-enhancement. The claims that atheism, capitalism or hedonism are more conducive to the pursuit of longevity, can be countered by historical examples where religion, socialism or asceticism were the foundations. No ideological system seems to have a monopoly, however strongly it asserts that it constitutes the rock-solid ground for this pursuit. It may be that, rather than providing such a foundation, political ideologies enlist the hope for life extension to increase their appeal."

DECIPHERING REGENERATION (April 22 2010)
http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/vnl.cfm?id=4693
From the Telegraph, news of continuing incremental progress in understanding the mechanisms of regeneration in lower animals: "research into how Planarian worms can regrow body parts - including a whole head and brain - could one day make it possible to regenerate old or damaged human organs and tissues ... We want to be able to understand how adult stem cells can work collectively in any animal to form and replace damaged or missing organs and tissues. ... Any fundamental advances in understanding from other animals can become relevant to humans surprisingly quickly. If we know what is happening when tissues are regenerated under normal circumstances, we can begin to formulate how to replace damaged and diseased organs, tissues and cells in an organised and safe way following an injury caused by trauma or disease. This would be desirable for treating Alzheimer's disease, for example. With this knowledge we can also assess the consequences of what happens when stem cells go wrong during the normal processes of renewal - for example in the blood cell system where rogue stem cells can result in Leukaemia."

BECAUSE SOMEONE HAS TO STATE THE OBVIOUS (April 22 2010)
http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/vnl.cfm?id=4692
Life is getting better: "Human society has changed much over the last centuries and this process of 'modernization' has profoundly affected the lives of individuals; currently we live quite different lives from those forefathers lived only five generations ago. There is difference of opinion as to whether we live better now than before and consequently there is also disagreement as to whether we should continue modernizing or rather try to slow the process down. Quality-of-life in a society can be measured by how long and happy its inhabitants live. Using these indicators I assess whether societal modernization has made life better or worse. Firstly I examine findings of present day survey research. I start with a cross-sectional analysis of 143 nations in the years 2000-2008 and find that people live longer and happier in today's most modern societies. Secondly I examine trends in modern nations over the last decade and find that happiness and longevity have increased in most cases. Thirdly I consider the long-term and review findings from historical anthropology, which show that we lived better in the early hunter-gatherer society than in the later agrarian society. Together these data suggest that societal evolution has worked out differently for the quality of human life, first negatively, in the change from a hunter-gatherer existence to agriculture, and next positively, in the more recent transformation from an agrarian to an industrial society. We live now longer and happier than ever before."

TISSUE ENGINEERED SKIN PROGRESSES (April 21 2010)
http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/vnl.cfm?id=4691
Spanish scientists "have generated artificial human skin by [tissue] engineering based on agarose-fibrin biomaterial. The artificial skin was grafted onto mice, and optimal development, maturation and functionality results were obtained. This pioneering finding will allow the clinical use of human skin and its use in many laboratory tests on biological tissues - which, additionally, would avoid the use of laboratory animals. Further, this finding could be useful in developing new treatment approaches for dermatological pathologies. ... The skin created in the laboratory showed adequate biocompatibility rates with the recipient and no rejection, dehiscence or infection was registered. ... The experiment [is] the first to create artificial human skin with a dermis made of fibrin-agarose biomaterial. To this date, artificial skin substitutes were elaborated with other biomaterials as collagen, fibrin, polyglycolic acid, chitosan, etc. These biomaterials [added] resistance, firmness and elasticity to the skin. ... Definitively, we have created a more stable skin with similar functionality to normal human skin."

AN UPDATE ON SCENT AND LONGEVITY (April 21 2010)
http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/vnl.cfm?id=4690
A number of studies in recent years have suggested that calorie intake is not the only thing that can alter metabolism to change longevity in lower animals: "Specific odors that represent food or indicate danger are capable of altering an animal's lifespan and physiological profile by activating a small number of highly specialized sensory neurons ... Recent research in model organisms and in humans has shown that sensory experiences can impact a wide range of health-related characteristics including athletic performance, type II diabetes, and aging. Nematode worms and fruit flies that were robbed of their ability to smell or taste, for example, lived substantially longer. However, the specific odors and sensory receptors that control this effect on aging were unknown. Using molecular genetics in combination with behavioral and environmental manipulations, [researchers have identified] carbon dioxide (CO2) as the first well-defined odorant capable of altering physiology and affecting aging. Flies incapable of smelling CO2 live longer than flies with normal olfactory capabilities. They are also resistant to stress and have increased body fat. To many insects, including fruit flies, CO2 represents an ecologically important odor cue that indicates the presence of food (e.g. rotting fruit or animal blood) or neighbors in distress (it has been implicated as a stress pheromone). Indeed, this group of researchers previously showed that merely sensing one's normal food source is capable of reversing the health and longevity benefits that are associated with a low calorie diet. They now establish that CO2 is responsible for this effect."

HUMANITY+ SUMMIT AT HARVARD (April 20 2010)
http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/vnl.cfm?id=4689
The Humanity+ Summit will be held in June at Harvard: "The H+ Summit is part of a larger cultural conversation about what it means to be human and, ultimately, more than human. This issue lies at the heart of the transhumanism movement ... The H+ Summit is a two day event that explores how humanity will be radically changed by technology in the near future. Visionary speakers will explore the potential of technology to modify your body, mind, life, and world. What will it mean to be a human in this next phase of technological development? How can we prepare now for coming changes? We foresee the feasibility of redesigning the human condition and overcoming such constraints as the inevitability of aging, limitations on human and artificial intellects, unchosen psychology, lack of resources, and our confinement to the planet earth. The possibilities are broad and exciting. The H+ Summit will provide a venue to discuss these future scenarios and to hear exciting presentations by the leaders of the ongoing H+ (r)evolution." Amongst the confirmed speakers is biomedical gerontologist and engineered longevity advocate Aubrey de Grey, whose presentations are always well worth attending.

STOPPING METASTASIS (April 20 2010)
http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/vnl.cfm?id=4688
Cancer would be far less threatening a condition if metastasis could be reliably blocked: "Like microscopic inchworms, cancer cells slink away from tumors to travel and settle elsewhere in the body. Now, [researchers report] that new anti-cancer agents break down the looping gait these cells use to migrate, stopping them in their tracks. Mice implanted with cancer cells and treated with the small molecule macroketone lived a full life without any cancer spread, compared with control animals, which all died of metastasis. When macroketone was given a week after cancer cells were introduced, it still blocked greater than 80 percent of cancer metastasis in mice. ... macroketone targets an actin cytoskeletal protein known as fascin that is critical to cell movement. In order for a cancer cell to leave a primary tumor, fascin bundles actin filaments together like a thick finger. The front edge of this finger creeps forward and pulls along the rear of the cell. Cells crawl away in the same way that an inchworm moves. Macroketone latches on to individual fascin, preventing the actin fibers from adhering to each other and forming the pushing leading edge."

ANOTHER VIEW OF WHAT TO DO ABOUT AGING (April 19 2010)
http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/vnl.cfm?id=4687
An interesting paper: "The idea that bodies wear out with age is so ancient, so pervasive, and so deeply rooted that it affects our thought in unconscious ways. Undeniably, many aspects of aging, e.g., oxidative damage, somatic mutations, and protein cross-linkage are characterized by increased entropy in biomolecules. However, it has been a scientific consensus for more than a century that there is no physical necessity for such damage. Living systems are defined by their capacity to gather order from their environment, concentrate it, and shed entropy with their waste. Organisms in their growth phase become stronger and more robust; no physical law prohibits this progress from continuing indefinitely. Indeed, some animals and many plants are known to grow indefinitely larger and more fertile through their lives. The same conclusion is underscored by experimental findings that various insults and challenges that directly damage the body or increase the rate of wear and tear have the paradoxical effect of extending life span. Hyperactive mice live longer than controls, and worms with their antioxidant systems impaired live longer than wild type. A fundamental understanding of aging must proceed not from physics but from an evolutionary perspective: The body is being permitted to decay because systems of repair and regeneration that are perfectly adequate to build and rebuild a body of ever-increasing resilience are being held back. Regardless of the reason for this retreat, it should be more fruitful to focus on signaling to effect the ongoing activity of systems of repair and regeneration than to attempt repair of the manifold damage left in the wake of their failure."

STEPS TOWARDS CONTROLLING REGENERATION (April 19 2010)
http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/vnl.cfm?id=4686
Spurring regeneration by use of signalling molecules is a promising field of medical development. Here is an example from the Technology Review: "scientists have identified a pair of peptides that can stimulate new cell growth and improve heart function in rodents induced to have heart attacks. [Researchers are] now testing one of the peptides, periostin, in pigs induced to have heart attacks. Because these animals have hearts similar in size to humans, they provide a good model for testing new therapies prior to human clinical trials. Preliminary results show that injecting the peptide into the pericardium, the lining around the heart, seems to help. ... [This] approach is, to some degree, in competition with stem-cell therapy, which is already being tested in humans. Scientists are working on different ways of harvesting and delivering stem cells to patients with heart disease, and clinical trials have so far yielded mixed results. Transplanted cells appear to have difficulty surviving and integrating into their new environment. In fact, some scientists suggests that benefit of cell transplants comes from the cells ability to stimulate innate growth. Triggering this process with peptides [may] be a simpler method of treatment of certain conditions such as cardiomyopathy [an enlarged heart] where the problem is lack of viable, contractile heart muscle cells."

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Exercise and Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted: April 24, 2010 at 8:15 am


More evidence for the benefits of exercise: "Researchers from the University of Washington conducted a six-month clinical trial with 33 participants, 17 of whom were women. All showed early signs of Alzheimer's disease and were between the ages of 55 and 85. The experiment participants underwent a six-month intensive aerobic training program, spending 45 minutes to an hour four times each week on a stationary bicycle or treadmill. At the end of the six months, the participants saw improvement in mental agility, while the control group showed no improvement. Researchers are planning further studies to conduct larger and longer duration trials, following volunteers for years instead of months, for more conclusive data as to whether exercise can prevent full-blown cases of Alzheimer's. ... Other similar studies have been conducted, where researchers have measured the health benefits of resistance training for women between the ages of 65 and 75 who are most at risk for developing Alzheimer's. In one study, after one year of training, women who had completed the training showed better scores on mental acuity and conflict resolution tests than those who didn't."

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.cavalierdaily.com/2010/04/21/remember-to-exercise-exercise-to-remember/

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

Politics and Historical Aspirations to Engineered Longevity

Posted: at 8:15 am


Possibly an example of overthinking the issue at the JET, but the section on Finot illustrates that our era does not enjoy a monopoly on rational thinking about extending the healthy human life span: "The beginning of the modern period in the pursuit of radical human enhancement and longevity can be traced to fin-de-siecle/early twentieth-century scientific and technological optimism and therapeutic activism. The works of several authors of the period - Fedorov, Stephens, Bogdanov, Nietzsche and Finot - reveal conflicting ideological and social pathways toward the goals of human enhancement and life extension. Each author represents a particular existing social order, and his vision of human advancement may be seen as a continuation and extension of that order. Therefore, the pursuit of life extension may be considered a fundamentally conservative (or conservationist) enterprise. ... First, these adaptations may question the claims of a particular ideology for supremacy in the promotion of life-extension and life-enhancement. The claims that atheism, capitalism or hedonism are more conducive to the pursuit of longevity, can be countered by historical examples where religion, socialism or asceticism were the foundations. No ideological system seems to have a monopoly, however strongly it asserts that it constitutes the rock-solid ground for this pursuit. It may be that, rather than providing such a foundation, political ideologies enlist the hope for life extension to increase their appeal."

View the Article Under Discussion: http://jetpress.org/v21/stambler.htm

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

Deciphering Regeneration

Posted: April 23, 2010 at 8:18 am


From the Telegraph, news of continuing incremental progress in understanding the mechanisms of regeneration in lower animals: "research into how Planarian worms can regrow body parts - including a whole head and brain - could one day make it possible to regenerate old or damaged human organs and tissues ... We want to be able to understand how adult stem cells can work collectively in any animal to form and replace damaged or missing organs and tissues. ... Any fundamental advances in understanding from other animals can become relevant to humans surprisingly quickly. If we know what is happening when tissues are regenerated under normal circumstances, we can begin to formulate how to replace damaged and diseased organs, tissues and cells in an organised and safe way following an injury caused by trauma or disease. This would be desirable for treating Alzheimer's disease, for example. With this knowledge we can also assess the consequences of what happens when stem cells go wrong during the normal processes of renewal - for example in the blood cell system where rogue stem cells can result in Leukaemia."

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/7618602/Worms-regeneration-ability-unravelled-by-scientists.html

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

Because Someone Has to State the Obvious

Posted: at 8:18 am


Life is getting better: "Human society has changed much over the last centuries and this process of 'modernization' has profoundly affected the lives of individuals; currently we live quite different lives from those forefathers lived only five generations ago. There is difference of opinion as to whether we live better now than before and consequently there is also disagreement as to whether we should continue modernizing or rather try to slow the process down. Quality-of-life in a society can be measured by how long and happy its inhabitants live. Using these indicators I assess whether societal modernization has made life better or worse. Firstly I examine findings of present day survey research. I start with a cross-sectional analysis of 143 nations in the years 2000-2008 and find that people live longer and happier in today's most modern societies. Secondly I examine trends in modern nations over the last decade and find that happiness and longevity have increased in most cases. Thirdly I consider the long-term and review findings from historical anthropology, which show that we lived better in the early hunter-gatherer society than in the later agrarian society. Together these data suggest that societal evolution has worked out differently for the quality of human life, first negatively, in the change from a hunter-gatherer existence to agriculture, and next positively, in the more recent transformation from an agrarian to an industrial society. We live now longer and happier than ever before."

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2848343/

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Your Inner Healers: A Look into the Potential of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (preview)

Posted: at 8:18 am


I remember my excitement one morning in the winter of 2006 when I peered through a microscope in my laboratory and saw a colony of cells that looked just like embryonic stem cells. They were clustered in a little heap, after dividing in a petri dish for almost three weeks. And they were glowing with the same colorful fluorescent markers scientists take as one sign of an embryonic cell’s “pluripotency”--its ability to give rise to any type of tissue in an organism’s body. But the cells I was looking at did not come from any embryo: they were regular adult mouse cells that had seemingly been rejuvenated by the addition of a simple cocktail of genes.

Could it really be so easy to roll back the internal clock of any mammalian cell and return it to an embryonic state? I was not the only one wondering at the time. Shinya Yamanaka of the University of Kyoto and his colleagues had just published a groundbreaking study in August 2006 that revealed their formula for creating what they called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from the skin cells of mice. Researchers had been struggling for years to understand and control the enormous potential of embryonic stem cells to produce customized tissues for use in medicine and research--as well as contending with political and ethical controversies over the use of embryos, scientific setbacks and false hopes generated by previous “breakthroughs” that did not pan out. So stem cell scientists were surprised and a little bit skeptical of the Japanese group’s results at first. But that morning in the lab, I could see firsthand the results of following Yamanaka’s recipe.

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Tissue Engineered Skin Progresses

Posted: April 22, 2010 at 8:16 am


Spanish scientists "have generated artificial human skin by [tissue] engineering based on agarose-fibrin biomaterial. The artificial skin was grafted onto mice, and optimal development, maturation and functionality results were obtained. This pioneering finding will allow the clinical use of human skin and its use in many laboratory tests on biological tissues - which, additionally, would avoid the use of laboratory animals. Further, this finding could be useful in developing new treatment approaches for dermatological pathologies. ... The skin created in the laboratory showed adequate biocompatibility rates with the recipient and no rejection, dehiscence or infection was registered. ... The experiment [is] the first to create artificial human skin with a dermis made of fibrin-agarose biomaterial. To this date, artificial skin substitutes were elaborated with other biomaterials as collagen, fibrin, polyglycolic acid, chitosan, etc. These biomaterials [added] resistance, firmness and elasticity to the skin. ... Definitively, we have created a more stable skin with similar functionality to normal human skin."

View the Article Under Discussion: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/186185.php

Read More Longevity Meme Commentary: http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/

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