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US obesity epidemic propels fitness as career

Posted: September 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm

The US obesity epidemic is pushing more Americans to pay attention to their health and leading a healthier lifestyle. Reuters pic

Employment of fitness trainers and instructors is expected to grow by a brisk 24 per cent in the decade to 2020, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, as businesses, health professionals and insurance companies take sharper aim at the sedentary lifestyle.

The obesity epidemic has produced a lot of noise and talk and chatter, said Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise (ACE), which has certified more than 50,000 fitness professionals.

Helping individuals be more active is important and fitness professionals can be at the centre of that, he said.

Obesity rates have skyrocketed in the last 20 years. More than one third of adults in the United States are obese, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bryant said the health crisis is strongly linked to the lifestyle choices that fitness professionals, such as personal trainers and group fitness instructors, address.

Despite the shaky economy, health club membership is up more than 10 per cent over the past three years, according to IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

Exercise physiologist and ACE spokesperson Jessica Matthews said workplace wellness campaigns also increase demand for fitness professionals.

Bryan said the average salary for a certified personal trainer is about US$53,000 (RM164,000) and rising. A high school diploma is sufficient to begin a career in fitness, he added, although more than two-thirds of professionals have college degrees.

Matthews said the industry attracts career changers driven by the downturn to reinvent their working selves.

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US obesity epidemic propels fitness as career

Meridian Health Plan Wins Metropolitan Detroit's Best and Brightest Companies to Work For™ Award

Posted: at 3:12 pm

DETROIT, Sept. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Michigan Business and Professional Association (MBPA) named Meridian Health Plan as one of Metropolitan Detroit's Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in 2012. Meridian and the 100 other companies will be honored by the MBPA on Thursday, Sept. 27 at The Henry Ford Hotel in Dearborn.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120910/DE71032 )

"It's an honor to win the Best and Brightest award," Lisa Hing, Director of Human Resources for Meridian Health Plan said. "It is a great representation of what we strive for with our company culture and how we regard employees."

This award program has been recognizing companies that produce the highest quality human resources initiatives in the area since 2003. This is the first time Meridian Health Plan has won the award.

"This year's honorees have clearly demonstrated why each of them would be an ideal place for employees to work. Companies that capitalize on their greatest resource -- their employees -- know how to attract and retain top talent," said Jennifer Kluge, MBPA president. "The selection, recognition and awarding of this year's 101 companies allows our organization to showcase their best practices and we are proud to offer them a venue to do this."

About Best and Brightest Companies to Work For ProgramThe Best and Brightest Companies to Work For is an award program of the Michigan Business and Professional Association. The award program is presented annually in several markets including Detroit, Grand Rapids, and recently expanded on a national level to Chicago, Atlanta and Houston.Nominations are now being accepted for 2013.

Award winners are chosen by an independent research firm, which evaluates each company's entry based on key measuresin various categories. These categories include Compensation, Benefits and Employee Solutions; Employee Enrichment, Engagement and Retention; Employee Education and Development; Recruitment, Selection and Orientation; Employee Achievement and Recognition; Communication and Shared Vision; Diversity and Inclusion; Work-Life Balance; Community Initiatives; Strategic Company Performance and the Best of the Best Small Business.

The winning 101 companies also compete for 11 elite awards, one granted for each of the evaluated categories. An overall winner that has excelled in all categories will also be honored with a "Best of the Best Overall" award. The elite award winners will be announced during the award ceremony.

Metropolitan Detroit's Best and Brightest Companies to Work For is sponsored by WDIV Channel 4 News, WXYZ TV 7 News, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Davenport University, DTE Energy, Strategic Staffing Solutions, Detroit Athletic Club, McGraw Wentworth, St. John Health System and Staples.

About the Michigan Business Professionals AssociationBased in Warren, Mich., the Michigan Business & Professional Association (MBPA) is the largest business organization of small to medium-sized businesses in Michigan, representing more than 20,000 members who employ over 200,0000 persons. Members include attorneys, physicians, architects, accountants, construction companies, banks, retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers and the like.Member businesses receive numerous benefits including free legal and financial consultations; discounted technology, automotive and office products; employee training and recruitment assistance; and competitive insurance rates. The MBPA is a sister association to the Michigan Food & Beverage Association (MFBA) with more than 3,400 members. Visit them online at http://www.michbusiness.org or http://www.michfood.org.

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Meridian Health Plan Wins Metropolitan Detroit's Best and Brightest Companies to Work For™ Award

AdCare Health Systems Declares 5% Stock Dividend, Payable October 22, 2012

Posted: at 3:12 pm

ATLANTA, GA--(Marketwire - Sep 10, 2012) - AdCare Health Systems, Inc. ( NYSE MKT : ADK ), a leading long-term care provider, has declared a 5% stock dividend, payable October 22, 2012 to shareholders of record at the close of business on October 8, 2012.

The company's transfer agent, Continental Stock Transfer & Trust Company, will issue the dividend shares in book-entry form through the Direct Registration System, and all fractional shares otherwise issuable as a result of the stock dividend will be rounded up to a whole share. If a shareholder would prefer to receive a certificate for their dividend shares instead of holding the shares in book-entry form, then they may request a certificate from Continental at any time.

The book-entry posting by Continental allows shareholders to own and transfer only their dividend shares without stock certificates. However, shareholders are advised to not destroy any certificates representing shares of AdCare common stock that they currently hold, as these remain valid for the number of shares shown.

If shareholders have any questions about this process, please feel free to contact the Stock Transfer Department of Continental at 1-212-845-3238.

Since the summer of 2010, AdCare has endeavored to build upon its reputation for operational efficiency and high-quality living environments by pursuing an aggressive acquisition strategy. AdCare is currently evaluating a number of additional acquisition opportunities in the Midwest and Southern region.


What is Direct Registration? The Direct Registration System (DRS) allows your shares to be issued or transferred electronically without requiring the issuance of a physical stock certificate. DRS shares are held in your name and tracked electronically (in book-entry form) on AdCare's records, which are maintained by the company's transfer agent, Continental Stock Transfer & Trust Company. Stockholders are not charged any fees to hold their shares in DRS form.

How will I know how many DRS shares I own? You will receive a Direct Registration Transaction Advice anytime there is activity in your DRS account. This advice, rather than physical certificates, evidences your ownership of your DRS shares. You may at request that a physical certificate be issued for a portion or all of your AdCare DRS shares.

Can shares that are in certificate form be converted to DRS shares? Generally, yes. Certificated shares may be converted to DRS shares at any time by delivering the certificate to Continental. The shares in certificate form will be added to your direct registration account balance and you will receive an account advice when the transaction is completed.

How do I transfer my DRS shares? The requirements for transferring DRS shares are the same as shares in certificate form, except there is no certificate to surrender. In order to transfer DRS shares, you will need to complete a Stock Power Form. Visit Continental's website at http://www.continentalstock.com to download the form or call Continental at 212-845-3238 to request one. Then prior to submitting a transfer request, you must obtain a Medallion Guarantee for any transfer request of shares. A Medallion Guarantee ensures the individual signing the request for transfer is the owner or authorized representative. This can be obtained from a participating financial institution, including your local bank or brokerage firm.

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AdCare Health Systems Declares 5% Stock Dividend, Payable October 22, 2012

Health In Reach Launches CarePoints(TM) Reward Program

Posted: at 3:12 pm

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - Sep 10, 2012) - TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012 -- While Republicans and Democrats debate health care reform, most Americans are more concerned about how they will pay for their own care now. Health In Reach, Inc., a free online service that helps consumers reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses, is putting health care reform in the hands of the people with its new CarePoints reward program. CarePoints are like "frequent flyer miles" for health care; points awarded for appointments booked with dentists and doctors online through the Health In Reach website. Health In Reach helps consumers save cash today by comparing prices before they receive care, and the CarePoints program is a free incentive for consumers to be more proactive in their health care decisions by offering additional savings when points are redeemed.

"We are committed to eliminating the barriers that delay health care decisions or prevent access to care," said Health In Reach CEO, Scott Sangster. "The CarePoints program is similar to 'frequent flyer miles' in that people can redeem their points to offset their next visit to a Health In Reach dentist or doctor. The CarePoints program is one more way that we can help stretch consumer health care dollars."

How CarePoints Works

When people sign up for a free account on the Health In Reach website, they automatically receive CarePoints. They can earn more CarePoints each time they find a dentist or doctor and book an appointment through the HealthInReach.com website, or share reviews and ratings about their care experience. CarePoints are redeemable toward the cost of care from thousands of licensed professionals nationwide who partner with Health In Reach.

Health In Reach offers more than 1.6 million available appointments that can be scheduled instantly online. Uniquely, the site also offers descriptions and prices for more than 90,000 specific procedures. Once scheduled, users receive appointment reminders, and can lock-in price discounts that reduce out-of-pocket costs.

"Health In Reach is leading the way toward consumer-driven health care by providing consumers with the information they need, including procedure-specific pricing that enables them to make informed decisions about their health care," said Halle Tecco, CEO of Rock Health, the San Francisco-based digital health startup accelerator sponsored by partners including the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School, UCSF, Accel Partners, NEA, Nike and Mohr Davidow.

Consumers can sign up and begin earning CarePoints today at http://www.healthinreach.com.

About Health In Reach

Health In Reach is a free website that offers discounts and online scheduling for dental and medical appointments nationwide. Using its patented technology, consumers search a comprehensive database of medical, dental and vision procedures and can schedule appointments conveniently online. Health In Reach lists more than 1.6 million available appointments and descriptions for more than 90,000 specific procedures. Consumers can see prices and lock-in fee discounts before they arrive at the doctor's office. After an appointment, users can leave reviews and other comments about their experience. Health In Reach was founded in 2009 and is a graduate of Rock Health. In May 2012 the company merged with PriceDoc.com; together the companies have raised more than $6 million in venture financing. For more information, screenshots and logo available in the electronic press kit at http://HealthInReach.com/press

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Health In Reach Launches CarePoints(TM) Reward Program

Coordinated Health Selects Allscripts Electronic Health Record System

Posted: at 3:11 pm

CHICAGO and BETHLEHEM, Pa., Sept. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --Coordinated Health, a top integrated healthcare delivery network across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, selected Sunrise Clinical Manager from Allscripts to help its clinicians improve care, better manage clinical information, and become more efficient.

The new Electronic Health Record (EHR) system will support collaborative care initiatives across Coordinated Health's 11 locations, two hospitals, and one ambulatory surgery center, enhancing decision-making and automating processes for accuracy and patient safety. Sunrise Clinical Manager will provide all caregivers real-time access to patient information such as medications, test results and diagnoses information that is critical to a patient's care experience.

"We chose Allscripts Sunrise Clinical Manager because we wanted a single, integrated view of each and every patient we serve across our various locations and platforms," said Emil Dilorio, MD, Chief Executive Officer of Coordinated Health. "This latest initiative builds on the Allscripts solutions we already use to enhance the quality of the overall patient record."

Coordinated Health also uses Allscripts Enterprise solutions for its outpatient electronic health records. The addition of Allscripts Sunrise Clinical Manager will help the hospital migrate its inpatient data and information to an electronic format and provide a seamless and integrated electronic information solution across the practice.

"Our goal is to help Coordinated Health succeed by providing the solutions that deliver insights to caregivers that will result in improved patient outcomes," said Glen Tullman, Chief Executive Officer of Allscripts. "Deploying Sunrise will help create a true 'Connected Community of Health' across all of their locations."

About Coordinated Health

Coordinated Health has fourteen locations, two hospitals, and one ambulatory surgery center serving eastern Pennsylvania. Coordinated Health has specialists in Primary Care, Cardiology, Gynecology, Breast Care, Orthopedics, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Chiropractic, Podiatry, and Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery. These specialties are supported by Coordinated Health's regional rehabilitation and imaging services. In addition to these specialties, Coordinated Health offers immediate medical and injury care through their Care on Demand walk-in facilities.

About Allscripts

Allscripts(NASDAQ:MDRX) delivers the insights that healthcare providers require to generate world-class outcomes. The company's Electronic Health Record, practice management and other clinical, revenue cycle, connectivity and information solutions create aConnected Community of Health for physicians, hospitals and post-acute organizations. To learn more about Allscripts, please visitwww.allscripts.com, Twitter, YouTube and It Takes A Community: The Allscripts Blog.

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Coordinated Health Selects Allscripts Electronic Health Record System

Health Dialog Receives Grant to Walk the Wellness Talk

Posted: at 3:11 pm


Health Dialog today announced it has received a grant from parent company Bupa as part of the Bupa Global Challenge. The Bupa Global Challenge aims to get 100,000 people worldwide walking during the month of September 2012 as part of the larger Bupa Well World initiative that aims to achieve the following goals by 2015:

The Bupa Global Challenge addresses each of these goals. By encouraging community members, including its own employees and colleagues to walk, Health Dialog will be encouraging people to look after their own health in an environmentally-friendly way. Walking is one of the least expensive and most accessible forms of physical activity and research shows that walking just 15 minutes a day can increase life expectancy by 3 years.1 With the world facing a chronic disease epidemic, caused in part by the rising trend in obesity rates and declining rates of physical activity2, there is huge impact to be made. Walking as an alternative to motored transportation can also contribute to reduction in carbon emissions.

Health Dialog will use the grant money to offer its online WELLNESS Dialog platform to human resource (HR) professionals in the US free of charge for one full year. This effort will be over and above Health Dialogs internal effort to get employees moving, which includes healthy competition for prizes including fitness devices, activity-focused video games, gift cards, and charitable donations. Employees can log their miles and track their progress through the WELLNESS Dialog platform as well, which has been extremely well received internally, with over 73% of employees registered to use the site.

We are thrilled to have earned a grant in support of the Bupa Global Challenge, said James Tugendhat, Chief Executive Officer, Health Dialog. In addition to the lives that we serve as part of our everyday business, we can now bring health and wellness services free of charge to human resource professionals throughout the country, so they can use firsthand a state-of-the-art tool to designed to change behavior. It is our hope that our human resource colleagues enjoy their experience and promote the solution forward, helping us spread the well.

The WELLNESS Dialog platform engages people in wellness from start to finish, beginning with a patent-pending, first-of-its-kind well-being assessment that identifies individuals not only with red-flags but also yellow flags, for early identification. Participants are matched with carefully tailored plans that include online learning, games and challenges, behavior change incentives, and telephonic health coaching. Launched publicly in October 2011, the online component of the WELLNESS Dialog offering is powered through an alliance with Limeade.

The 15 million individuals who currently have access to Health Dialogs total population health management services will contribute to the Bupa Well World goal of empowering 60 million people. Additionally, in an effort to meet the carbon footprint goal, Health Dialog has implemented several green initiatives, including recycling and water and energy conservation.

About Health Dialog Services Corporation:

Health Dialog Services Corporation is a leading provider of healthcare analytics and decision support. The firm is a private, wholly-owned subsidiary of Bupa, a global provider of healthcare services. Health Dialog helps healthcare payors improve healthcare quality while reducing overall costs. Company offerings include health coaching for medical decisions, chronic conditions, and wellness; population analytic solutions; and consulting services. Health Dialog helps individuals participate in their own healthcare decisions, develop more effective relationships with their physicians, and live healthier, happier lives. For more information please visit http://www.healthdialog.com.

1http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)60749-6/abstract 2 International Obesity Task Force and European Association for the Study of Obesity. Obesity in Europe: The Case for Action http://www.iotf.org/media/euobesity.pdf

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Health Dialog Receives Grant to Walk the Wellness Talk

Gabriele Fitness to present nutrition seminar

Posted: at 12:16 am

Gabriele Fitness and Performance of Berkeley Heights, an athletic training program and facility for students and adults, is proud to present a seminar about the importance of nutrition.

There will be two presentations:

Four Ways to Overcome Fat Loss Road Blocks by Dr. Perry Nickelston.

Nickelston will teach you how to optimize powerful fat burning hormones and adopt four simple strategies to help you lose up to 10 pounds in 30 days. Work with your body not against it by understanding the relationship between fat loss an fat storage hormones. Hormones control how you look and feel. Take back control of your body and empower yourself to look the way you want.

Should You be Taking Nutritional Supplements? by Tom Langton.

He will dig deep as to what a supplement actually is, which of them actually work, which supplements are best for you and which ones are safe for kids. There are literally thousands of nutritional supplements on the market today all of which claim to have great benefits for health and performance and scientific research to back them up.

Langton will be going over some simple strategies to help sort through all the pr and find out which ones are best for you and your family.

Free food samples will be provided by Chef Dan.

The seminar is open to the public on Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m. at Gabriele Fitness and Performance on 20 Locust Ave. Pre-registration is required by emailing train@gabrielefitness.com or calling 908-464-4441. For more information, visit gabrielefitness.com.

Gabriele Fitness & Performance is dedicated to improving the health and fitness of adults and the development and performance of middle school and high school students. The main goal is to inspire people to accomplish fitness goals and results beyond what they ever thought possible. This is accomplished through unique personalized training from their certified and professional coaching staff with an emphasis on nutrition and motivational lifestyle change.

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Gabriele Fitness to present nutrition seminar

Health centers not just for the sick

Posted: at 12:16 am

Instructor Andrea Gonzalez leads, from left, Molly Thompson, Serena Codiroli and Vicky Mira during a Zumba class at the Petaluma Health Center on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012.

In a move that illustrates how health care facilities are evolving beyond their age-old mission of treating illness, the Petaluma Health Center has opened its new exercise facility to the general public.

This month, the health center began offering fitness classes to both patients and local residents. Offered at discount prices, the courses include two Zumba classes and two yoga classes, with more offerings on the horizon.

Were going to be open to anyone in the community, said Luke Entrup, the health centers newly hired wellness program manager.

Entrup said other courses being considered include Tai Chi and Qi Gong, aerobics and 5Rhythms dance classes.

Were going to start yoga and Zumba classes, but were going to build many more classes, he said.

The Petaluma Health Center is one of the largest health care providers in southern Sonoma County, with 18,000 patients. Its new movement room is part of the centers new 53,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to serve some 35,000 southern Sonoma County and northern Marin County residents.

Fitness classes are part of the health centers wellness program, which is aimed at promoting healthy living and helping patients improve their condition while dealing with chronic disease such as diabetes.

Other health care providers in the county offer similar programs.

In west Santa Rosa, a health program for children called Muevete! is offered at the Southwest Community Health Center and the Roseland Childrens Health Center, which are part of the Santa Rosa Community Health Centers.

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Health centers not just for the sick

Fight Aging! Newsletter, September 10th 2012

Posted: September 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm

September 10th 2012

The Fight Aging! 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 Fight Aging!



- Discussion
- Considering a Negative Result for Primate Calorie Restriction
- Personal Survival and Swimming Against the Cultural Currents
- Fat Tissue: Where Did it All Go Wrong?
- Latest Headlines from Fight Aging!
    - Nanog Reverses Some Aspects of Stem Cell Aging
    - Longevity in Mammals as an Ancient Phenomenon
    - A Chart of Changing Mortality Rates and Life Expectancy
    - Jnk3 as a Potential Target for Alzheimer's Therapy
    - On ?-synuclein and Neurodegeneration
    - Reproductive Tissues Influence Life Span
    - Manipulation of Osteopontin Can Reverse Declining Muscle Regeneration
    - Stem Cell Transplant Restores Feeling After Spinal Injury
    - On Extending Life in Mice Via Telomerase Expression
    - Bioscience and Pushing the Limits of Lifespan


The latest data from one of the primate studies of calorie restriction, health, and longevity, should be considered in context:


"As I'm sure you noticed, the latest data from one of the two long-running primate studies of calorie restriction is being presented in the press as a negative result: no extension of mean life span in the rhesus monkeys in that study. This contrasts with another study that may or may not presently show a modest extension of primate life span with calorie restriction, depending on how you feel about the way in which the researchers are interpreting their data.

"The press are largely running with 'calorie restriction doesn't work,' but that's because the mainstream media is shallow, either reprinting a superficial summary or at best treating each new research result in isolation rather than considering it in the context of the field as a whole. Doing the job properly, employing actual knowledge and analysis, takes more time and doesn't sell any more papers - so why bother? This is why the media should chiefly be used as a flagging mechanism; if you see discussion of a topic, note that it happened and then do your own research and analysis.

"In science, each new set of data and consequent analysis should be added to the existing array for a given topic. Progressing towards a greater understanding is an incremental affair, especially given than a large proportion of studies and data are flawed in some way ... So what should we take away from the results of the two ongoing primate studies of life span and health under calorie restriction? After two decades one shows a modest boost to life span, the other no increase, and both show health benefits resulting from calorie restriction - though to different degrees. The control groups are fed differently, one allowed to eat as much as they like, the other on a set diet that has more calories than the restricted group. The composition of the diets in the two studies are also different. Even the genetic heritage of the rhesus monkeys involved is different enough for scientists to consider it significant, given the many but tenuous relationships to longevity found in the human genome over the past decade.

"When looking beyond these studies to the broader context of data derived from a range of human studies and countless studies in mice, we see that calorie restriction absolutely, definitely has a large positive impact on health and longevity in shorter-lived mammals, and a large positive impact on measures of health in humans.

"The first important point to consider is that these studies add to the weight of data and theory suggesting the effect of calorie restriction on the life span of longer-lived primates is small. Consider that any study is going produce results somewhere statistical map of what is possible and plausible: if two studies both show no extension or only a modest extension of life, then there would have to be a good reason to continue to believe that a large extension of life is possible. This concurs with the present scientific consensus and reasonable expectations: if calorie restriction could produce a 40% extension of maximum human life span, as it does in mice, then we'd have known about it since the age of antiquity. Our history is rife with cloistered groups that practiced austere lifestyles, after all, and many of them existed in periods of comparative wealth wherein suitable levels of nutrition were readily available.

"A second important point is that this latest primate data in no way detracts from the health benefits produced by calorie restriction and demonstrated in numerous human studies. These research results are impressive: if calorie restriction were a drug, people would be falling over themselves to get a hold of it, as it leads to benefits that go far beyond anything that medical science can presently offer a basically healthy individual.

"The future of calorie restriction research at the level of investigation and understanding - as opposed to attempts to build calorie restriction mimetic drugs - will, I suspect, involve a great deal of thought on how to reconcile significant beneficial effects on measures of health and disease risk with an apparently small beneficial effect on life span. That isn't an intuitive outcome given the view of aging as an accumulation of damage, and the straightforward relationship between better health measures and greater life span extension in shorter-lived mammals like mice or rats. What is does indicate is that some of the differences in metabolism between mammals species are very significant when it comes to life span: one hypothesis is that some of the beneficial metabolic changes brought about in mice by calorie restriction are essentially already running by default in your average human, and account for our present longevity in comparison to similarly sized mammals.

"So from the perspective of a dispassionate observer of metabolic science, calorie restriction continues to offer a tremendous and ever-deepening opportunity to really dig into the operation and evolution of mammalian biochemistry. From the perspective of those of us who want to live very much longer than our predecessors, calorie restriction has to be nothing more than a common sense health practice, akin to flossing and exercise, but not something that we hang unrealistic hopes on. Real progress in living longer must come from medical science, from efforts to build rejuvenation biotechnologies that can repair the damage that causes aging. Absent advances in longevity medicine we will age and die just like our ancestors, no matter what we eat; taking care of our health is, like supporting research initiatives in longevity science, one more optimization to help us live long enough to see the deployment of therapies to treat and reverse aging."


Its fair to say that at this time most people don't put in much thought or effort when it comes to living a longer, healthier life. The mainstream of our culture is somewhere between indifferent and hostile to this goal. But research of biotechnologies that can achieve reversal of aging in the old requires widespread support in order to grow to become a powerful, rapidly moving field like stem cell medicine or cancer research. So we are currently swimming against the current, in an uphill struggle to persuade and raise funding for building therapies for aging - and that won't be the first time this happens in a matter crucial to personal survival:


"[The] additional cost in time and resources imposed [on longevity science] by the nature of our present culture is an existential threat. It threatens to kill us by ensuring that the development of effective ways to reverse aging in the old arrive too late. Given that progress in this field of science and technology is a matter of persuading funding sources and raising money to accomplish known goals, it could be argued that this is a fight to change the prevailing culture rather than a matter of research. If we want to live, it's a fight we have to win - or at least convince a few tens of millions to become supporters of longevity science in the same way that most people are supporters of cancer research.

"But let us look to the future, at what I see as a loosely analogous cultural battle that will start to arrive at around the same time as the means to reverse aging - one that will also present an existential threat to personal survival.

"Consider that at some point in the next few decades it will become possible to simulate and then emulate a human brain. That will enable related technological achievements as reverse engineering of memory, a wide range of brain-machine interfaces, and strong artificial intelligence. It will be possible to copy and alter an individual's mind: we are at root just data and operations on that data. It will be possible for a mind to run on computing hardware rather than in our present biology, for minds to be copied from a biological brain, and for arbitrary alterations of memory to be made near-immediately. This opens up all of the possibilities that have occupied science fiction writers for the past couple of decades: forking individuals, merging in memories from other forks, making backups, extending a human mind through commodity processing modules that provide skills or personality shards, and so on and so forth.

"There is already a population of folk who would cheerfully take on any or all of these options. I believe that this population will only grow: the economic advantages for someone who can edit, backup, and fork their own mind are enormous - let alone the ability to consistently take advantage of a marketplace of commodity products such as skills, personalities, or other fragments of the mind.

"But you'll notice I used what I regard as a malformed phrase there: 'someone who can edit, backup, and fork their own mind.' There are several sorts of people in the world; the first sort adhere to some form of pattern theory of identity, defining the self as a pattern, wherever that pattern may exists. Thus for these folk it makes sense to say that 'my backup is me', or 'my fork is me.' The second sort, and I am in this camp, associate identity with the continuity of a slowly changing arrangement of mass and energy: I am this lump of flesh here, the one slowly shedding and rebuilding its cells and cellular components as it progresses. If you copy my mind and run it in software, that copy is not me. So in my view you cannot assign a single identity to forks and backups: every copy is an individual, large changes to the mind are equivalent to death, and it makes no sense to say something like 'someone who can edit, backup, and fork their own mind.'

A copy of you is not you, but there is worse to consider: if the hardware that supports a running brain simulation is anything like present day computers, that copy isn't even particularly continuous. It is more like an ongoing set of individuals, each instantiated for a few milliseconds or less and then destroyed, to be replaced by yet another copy. If self is data associated with particular processing structures, such as an arrangement of neurons and their connections, then by comparison a simulation is absolute different: inside a modern computer or virtual machine that same data would be destroyed, changed, and copied at arbitrary times between physical structures - it is the illusion of a continuous entity, not the reality.

That should inspire a certain sense of horror among folk in the continuity of identity camp, not just because it is an ugly thing to think about, but because it will almost certainly happen to many, many, many people before this century ends - and it will largely be by their own choice, or worse, inflicted upon them by the choice of the original from whom the copy was made.

This is not even to think about the smaller third group of people who are fine with large, arbitrary changes to their state of mind: rewriting memories, changing the processing algorithms of the self, and so on. At the logical end of that road lie hives of software derived from human minds in which identity has given way to ever-changing assemblies of modules for specific tasks, things that transiently appear to be people but which are a different sort of entity altogether - one that has nothing we'd recognize as continuity of identity. Yet it would probably be very efficient and economically competitive.

The existential threat here is that the economically better path to artificial minds, the one that involves lots of copying and next to no concern for continuity of identity, will be the one that dominates research and development. If successful and embedded in the cultural mainstream, it may squeeze out other roads that would lead to more robust agelessness for we biological humans - or more expensive and less efficient ways to build artificial brains that do have a continuity of structure and identity, such as a collection of artificial neurons that perform the same functions as natural ones.

This would be a terrible, terrible tragedy: a culture whose tides are in favor of virtual, copied, altered, backed up and restored minds is to my eyes little different from the present culture that accepts and encourages death by aging. In both cases, personal survival requires research and development that goes against the mainstream, and thus proceeds more slowly.

Sadly, given the inclinations of today's futurists - and, more importantly, the economic incentives involved - I see this future as far more likely than the alternatives. Given a way to copy, backup, and alter their own minds, people will use it and justify its use to themselves by adopting philosophies that state they are not in fact killing themselves over and again. I'd argue that they should be free to do so if they choose, just the same as I'd argue that anyone today should be free to determine the end of his or her life. Nonetheless, I suspect that this form of future culture may pose a sizable set of hurdles for those folk who emerge fresh from the decades in which the first early victories over degenerative aging take place."


In this post, an interesting open access paper on the evolutionary origins of our present challenges with fat tissue.


"Accumulation of excess body fat is easy to accomplish in a wealthy society, and it has very unpleasant consequences over the long term. The more time you spend carrying additional visceral fat tissue, the higher your risk of suffering all of the common age-related diseases in later life, the greater your expected medical bills, and the shorter your life expectancy. This is all well understood and widely ignored: the urges to eat and laze are strong in the average human.

"The way in which our bodies grasp at nutrients and aggressively store any excess as fat tissue didn't evolve because it is harmful, however. It evolved because it provides an advantage to survival and propagation of the species - at least it did while we occupied an evolutionary niche characterized by unreliable access to food. When we leave that niche for one with reliably abundant nutrition, these metabolic mechanisms become a maladjustment. We have succeeded ourselves out of the obvious and ugly scenarios of famine and into the more subtle scenarios of self-sabotage. Change in our environment is now self-directed and far faster than evolution can keep up with: we are the masters of our own destiny, and what goes on in our heads becomes more important than many other factors when it comes to health, longevity, and our environment."


The highlights and headlines from the past week follow below. 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!



Friday, September 7, 2012
It's been a while since nanog was discussed here; it's one of the genes associated with early efforts to reprogram somatic cells into stem cells and seems to be important in the activity of embryonic stem cells. Here researchers are investigating the reversal of stem cell aging: "Although the therapeutic potential of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) is widely accepted, loss of cell function due to donor aging or culture senescence are major limiting factors hampering their clinical application. Our laboratory recently showed that MSC originating from older donors suffer from limited proliferative capacity and significantly reduced myogenic differentiation potential. This is a major concern, as the patients most likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease are elderly. Here we tested the hypothesis that a single pluripotency associated transcription factor, namely Nanog, may reverse the proliferation and differentiation potential of BM-MSC from adult donors. Microarray analysis showed that [expressing Nanog] markedly upregulated genes involved in cell cycle, DNA replication and DNA damage repair and enhanced the proliferation rate and clonogenic capacity of [adult] BM-MSC. Notably, Nanog reversed the myogenic differentiation potential and restored the contractile function of [adult] BM-MSC to a similar level as that of neonatal BM-MSC. ... Overall, our results suggest that Nanog may be used to overcome the effects of organismal aging on BM-MSC, thereby increasing the potential of MSC from aged donors for cellular therapy and tissue regeneration."

Friday, September 7, 2012
An interesting view on the evolutionary depths of longevity in mammals, achieved through analysis of presently available genomes: "It is widely assumed that our mammalian ancestors, which lived in the Cretaceous era, were tiny animals that survived massive asteroid impacts in shelters, and evolved into modern forms after dinosaurs went extinct, 65 Mya. The small size of most Mesozoic mammalian fossils essentially supports this view. Paleontology, however, is not conclusive regarding the ancestry of extant mammals, because Cretaceous and Paleocene fossils are not easily linked to modern lineages. Here we use full-genome data to estimate the longevity and body mass of early placental mammals. Analysing 36 fully-sequenced mammalian genomes, we reconstruct two aspects of the ancestral genome dynamics ... Linking these molecular evolutionary processes to life history traits in modern species, we estimate that early placental mammals had a life-span above 25 years, and a body mass above one kilogram. This is similar to current primates, cetartiodactyls or carnivores, but markedly different from mice or shrews, challenging the dominant view about mammalian origin and evolution. Our results imply that long-lived mammals existed in the Cretaceous era, and were the most successful in evolution, opening new perspectives about the conditions for survival to the Cretaceous-Tertiary crisis."

Thursday, September 6, 2012
This chart from the Scientific American clearly illustrates the progress in tackling heart disease over the past few decades, a factor that is driving a steady rise in life expectancy at older ages. Mortality rates for this range of conditions are falling quite dramatically: "A baby born in the U.S. this year is likely to live to blow out 78 birthday candles - a far longer average life span than someone born even in the 1960s. Heart disease is still the biggest killer but it, along with fatal infectious diseases and infant mortality have all fallen to much lower levels in the past half century. Researchers are now hard at work tackling the growing afflictions, such as nervous system diseases and Alzheimer's, which are far more likely to attack the ever more senescent population. ... Researchers are exploring two main approaches to extending healthy human life span. One camp believes we should focus on curing disease and replacing damaged body parts via stem cell therapies. Another camp believes we must slow the aging process on the cellular and molecular levels." If you include the SENS approach to repair of the causes of aging under "curing disease and replacing damaged body parts", then this describes the most important issue of our time in the life sciences: will the research community take an effective path or not in the treatment of aging? This will determine how long we all live.

Thursday, September 6, 2012
Via ScienceDaily: "Scientists have found that eliminating an enzyme from mice with symptoms of Alzheimer's disease leads to a 90 percent reduction in the compounds responsible for formation of the plaques linked to Alzheimer's disease. ... The key to reducing A-beta peptides was the elimination of an enzyme called jnk3. This enzyme stimulates a protein that produces A-beta peptides, suggesting that when jnk3 activities are high, A-beta peptide production increases - increasing chances for their accumulation and formation into plaques. The researchers also observed that jnk3 activities in brain tissue from Alzheimer's disease patients were increased by 30 to 40 percent when compared to normal human brain tissue. Jnk3 activity typically remains low in the brain, but increases when physiological abnormalities arise. ... [Researchers] deleted jnk3 genetically from Alzheimer's disease model mice carrying the mutations that are found among early-onset Alzheimer's disease patients. In six months, the deletion of the enzyme had lowered A-beta peptide production by 90 percent, which persisted over time, with a 70 percent reduction seen at 12 months in these mice. When the researchers saw that elimination of jnk3 dramatically lowered A-beta peptides in the mice, they also looked for effects on cognitive function at 12 months. The deletion of jnk3 improved cognitive function significantly, reaching 80 percent of normal, while cognitive function in disease model mice was 40 percent of normal. The number of brain cells, or neurons, in the Alzheimer's disease mice was also increased with jnk3 deletion, reaching 86 percent of the value in normal mice, while the neuron numbers were only 74 percent in Alzheimer's model mice."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012
In recent years a build up of ?-synuclein has been shown to be important in some neurodegenerative conditions: "The discovery of ?-synuclein has had profound implications concerning our understanding of Parkinson's disease (PD) and other neurodegenerative disorders characterized by ?-synuclein accumulation. In fact, as compared with pre-?-synuclein times, a "new" PD can now be described as a whole-body disease in which a progressive spreading of ?-synuclein pathology underlies a wide spectrum of motor as well as nonmotor clinical manifestations. Not only is ?-synuclein accumulation a pathological hallmark of human ?-synucleinopathies but increased protein levels are sufficient to trigger neurodegenerative processes. ?-Synuclein elevations could also be a mechanism by which disease risk factors (e.g., aging) increase neuronal vulnerability to degeneration. An important corollary to the role of enhanced ?-synuclein in PD pathogenesis is the possibility of developing ?-synuclein-based biomarkers and new therapeutics aimed at suppressing ?-synuclein expression. The use of in vitro and in vivo experimental models, including transgenic mice overexpressing ?-synuclein and animals with viral vector-mediated ?-synuclein transduction, has helped clarify pathogenetic mechanisms and therapeutic strategies involving ?-synuclein. These models are not devoid of significant limitations, however. Therefore, further pursuit of new clues on the cause and treatment of PD in this post-?-synuclein era would benefit substantially from the development of improved research paradigms of ?-synuclein elevation."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012
A review paper: "Aging and reproduction are two defining features of our life. Historically, research has focused on the well-documented decline in reproductive capacity that accompanies old age, especially with increasing maternal age in humans. However, recent experiments in model organisms such as worms, flies and mice have shown that a dialogue in the opposite direction may be widely prevalent, and that signals from reproductive tissues have a significant effect on the rate of aging of organisms. This pathway has been described in considerable detail in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Molecular genetic studies suggest that signals from the germline control a network of transcriptional regulators that function in the intestine to influence longevity. This network includes conserved, longevity-promoting Forkhead Box (FOX)-family transcription factors such as DAF-16/FOXO and PHA-4/FOXA, nuclear hormone receptors (NHRs) as well as a transcription elongation factor, TCER-1/TCERG1. Genomic and targeted molecular analyses have revealed that these transcription factors modulate autophagy, lipid metabolism and possibly other cellular processes to increase the length of the animal's life."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Muscle mass and strength decline with age, and researchers continue to explore the mechanisms by which this happens: "Skeletal muscle regeneration following injury is accompanied by rapid infiltration of macrophages, which play a positive role in muscle repair. Increased chronic inflammation inhibits the regeneration of dystrophic muscle, but the properties of inflammatory cells are not well understood in the context of normal muscle aging. This work uncovers pronounced age-specific changes in the expression of osteopontin (OPN) in CD11b+ macrophages present in the injured old muscle as well as in the blood serum of old injured mice and in the basement membrane surrounding old injured muscle fibers. Furthermore, young CD11b+ macrophages enhance regenerative capacity of old muscle stem cells even when old myofibers and old sera are present; and neutralization of OPN similarly rejuvenates the myogenic responses of old satellite cells in vitro and notably, in vivo. This study highlights potential mechanisms by which age related inflammatory responses become counter-productive for muscle regeneration and suggests new strategies for enhancing muscle repair in the old."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Via the New Scientist: "For the first time, people with broken spines have recovered feeling in previously paralysed areas after receiving injections of neural stem cells. Three people with paralysis received injections of 20 million neural stem cells directly into the injured region of their spinal cord. The cells, acquired from donated fetal brain tissue, were injected between four and eight months after the injuries happened. The patients also received a temporary course of immunosuppressive drugs to limit rejection of the cells. None of the three felt any sensation below their nipples before the treatment. Six months after therapy, two of them had sensations of touch and heat between their chest and belly button. The third patient has not seen any change. ... The fact we've seen responses to light touch, heat and electrical impulses so far down in two of the patients is very unexpected. They're really close to normal in those areas now in their sensitivity. ... The sensory gains, first detected at three months post-transplant, have now persisted and evolved at six months after transplantation. We clearly need to collect much more data to demonstrate efficacy, but our results so far provide a strong rationale to persevere with the clinical development of our stem cells for spinal injury. ... We need to keep monitoring these patients to see if feeling continues to affect lower segments of their bodies. These are results after only six months, and we will follow these patients for many years. ... There could be several reasons why the stem cells improve sensitivity ... They might help to restore myelin insulation to damaged nerves, improving the communication of signals to and from the brain. Or they could be enhancing the function of existing nerves, replacing them entirely or reducing the inflammation that hampers repair."

Monday, September 3, 2012
Suitable genetic engineering of telomerase can extend life in mice, but it isn't a straightforward process, and it is unclear as to how this would translate to humans given the complex relationship between telomere biology and aging on the one hand and the differences between humans and mice on the other: "The absence of telomerase [and consequent] telomere shortening in somatic cells plays a controversial role in mammalian aging. On the one hand, genetic knockout of telomerase function in mice has little noticeable effect on the aging of first-generation mutants. Serious phenotypic consequences are seen only in the fourth through sixth generations of such mutants when premature aging-associated phenotypes appear. This is because the normal length of mouse telomeres is sufficient for several mouse life spans, including all of the cell divisions associated with development. On the other hand, ectopic expression of the catalytic subunit of telomerase (telomerase reverse transcriptase, TERT) in epithelial cells has been reported to extend life span by up to 40% in mice engineered to be cancer-resistant. Unfortunately, ectopic expression of TERT in wild-type mice or mutations in human TERT increase cancer risk. There is evidence that active telomerase [and consequently] long telomeres protect cells from the metabolic and mitochondrial compromise that occurs when shortened telomeres induce p53 ... Ironically, shortened telomeres also result in increased cancer rates, probably due to increased genomic instability. Consistent with a homeostatic mechanism is the observation that telomerase reactivation has been shown to partially reverse tissue degeneration in aged telomerase-deficient mice (fourth generation). There is a paradox here: Mouse chromosomes possess enough reserve telomere length to fuel cell divisions for up to six organismal generations, yet mice apparently have at least a subset of cells in which dysfunction is linked to shorter telomeres and/or the absence of telomerase within a single life span. This paradox relates to the critical question of whether sufficient clinical benefit could result from ectopic telomerase expression in human aging and in diseases associated with shortened telomeres ... Of course, one potentially important difference is that humans have significantly shorter telomeres than mice."

Monday, September 3, 2012
A short article on longevity science than manages to miss most of the interesting work presently taking place by focusing on the mainstream of metabolic manipulation to slow aging and researchers who talk about compression of morbidity without extending life: "As scientists make new breakthroughs in understanding the mechanics of aging, the upper limits of aging might be changing for Homo sapiens. Already, life expectancy has increased dramatically since the late nineteenth century, when it was 40 for males and 42 for females at birth, and age 58 and 59 respectively if they survived to age 10 (infant mortality was much higher in 1890). Life expectancy is expected to keep rising to perhaps age 100 sometime in the 22nd century, according to the United Nations. This comes from better hygiene and nutrition, and also from bio-med breakthroughs that range from antibiotics to targeted therapies for cancer and robotic surgery. Is it possible that new waves of discoveries might take us on a path of even more dramatic increases in life extension? Until recently, mainstream scientists would have answered with an emphatic no, suggesting that this was a fantasy offered up by alchemists, charlatans, and pseudo-scientists. Two trends have shifted this point of view. The first is a realization that aging is one of the greatest risk factors for many diseases, and therefore needs to be seriously addressed by biomedical researchers. Not with a primary endpoint of radically prolonging life, which remains controversial, but as a major element of conventional research into understanding and combating cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases of the elderly. The second trend is that scientists have succeeded in upping the lifespan of many animals, sometimes dramatically, discoveries that have launched wide-ranging research into the mechanics of aging. The big question is: Can these processes be replicated in humans?"



Yet More Data on Body Weight and Medical Costs

Posted: at 3:51 pm

A couple of generally useful large reference studies on body weight, level of exercise, and resulting life expectancy and lifetime medical costs have shown up in recent years. As I'm sure you all know by now, the data all points in the direction of more fat and less exercise correlating with a shorter, less healthy life and higher lifetime medical costs. Take a look at these items, for example:

I recently noticed another, similar study on the Israeli population:

Health care costs per person were calculated by body mass index (BMI) by applying Israeli cost data to aggregated results from international studies. These were applied to BMI changes from eight intervention programmes in order to calculate reductions in direct treatment costs. Indirect cost savings were also estimated as were additional costs due to increased longevity of program participants. Data on costs and Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) gained from Israeli and International dietary interventions were combined to provide cost-utility estimates of an intervention program to reduce obesity in Israel.


On average, persons who were overweight (25 ? BMI < 30)had health care costs that were 12.2% above the average health care costs of persons with normal or sub-normal weight to height ratios (BMI < 25). This differential in costs rose to 31.4% and 73.0% for obese and severely obese persons, respectively.

I imagine that the popularity of this sort of work of late, or at least the increased willingness of funding bodies to make the necessary grants, has to do with a greater awareness of the impending financial collapse in medical entitlements and centralized health systems. This sad end is somewhat inevitable whenever a system is set up such that patients do not bear costs directly and funds are drawn from taxed resources - there will be overspending, waste, spiraling prices, special interests and all the other ugly aspects of business as usual in politics.

The "solution" offered up by the talking heads is, as usual, more control over everything: rationing, expensive attempts to influence lifestyle choices, and so forth. A far better option, and one unlikely to be tried until these systems have decayed into the sort of wasteland commonly associated with the ruins left at the end of the Soviet era, is simply to let people buy and sell medical services unmolested, unregulated, and in open competition. But that offers those in power few opportunities to advance their own position and line their own pockets, so as you can imagine it doesn't have many advocates where it matters. But ultimately the money runs out and the promises cannot be kept; if something cannot be paid for then it will not be paid for, regardless of how pretty the lies and promises might be.

So two lessons here: firstly, don't get fat and don't stay fat. Secondly, don't expect anyone to be paying your way in later life, regardless of what government employees might have to say on the matter.


Nanog Reverses Some Aspects of Stem Cell Aging

Posted: at 3:51 pm

It's been a while since nanog was discussed here; it's one of the genes associated with early efforts to reprogram somatic cells into stem cells and seems to be important in the activity of embryonic stem cells. Here researchers are investigating the reversal of stem cell aging: "Although the therapeutic potential of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) is widely accepted, loss of cell function due to donor aging or culture senescence are major limiting factors hampering their clinical application. Our laboratory recently showed that MSC originating from older donors suffer from limited proliferative capacity and significantly reduced myogenic differentiation potential. This is a major concern, as the patients most likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease are elderly. Here we tested the hypothesis that a single pluripotency associated transcription factor, namely Nanog, may reverse the proliferation and differentiation potential of BM-MSC from adult donors. Microarray analysis showed that [expressing Nanog] markedly upregulated genes involved in cell cycle, DNA replication and DNA damage repair and enhanced the proliferation rate and clonogenic capacity of [adult] BM-MSC. Notably, Nanog reversed the myogenic differentiation potential and restored the contractile function of [adult] BM-MSC to a similar level as that of neonatal BM-MSC. ... Overall, our results suggest that Nanog may be used to overcome the effects of organismal aging on BM-MSC, thereby increasing the potential of MSC from aged donors for cellular therapy and tissue regeneration."

Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22949105


Longevity in Mammals as an Ancient Phenomenon

Posted: at 3:51 pm

An interesting view on the evolutionary depths of longevity in mammals, achieved through analysis of presently available genomes: "It is widely assumed that our mammalian ancestors, which lived in the Cretaceous era, were tiny animals that survived massive asteroid impacts in shelters, and evolved into modern forms after dinosaurs went extinct, 65 Mya. The small size of most Mesozoic mammalian fossils essentially supports this view. Paleontology, however, is not conclusive regarding the ancestry of extant mammals, because Cretaceous and Paleocene fossils are not easily linked to modern lineages. Here we use full-genome data to estimate the longevity and body mass of early placental mammals. Analysing 36 fully-sequenced mammalian genomes, we reconstruct two aspects of the ancestral genome dynamics ... Linking these molecular evolutionary processes to life history traits in modern species, we estimate that early placental mammals had a life-span above 25 years, and a body mass above one kilogram. This is similar to current primates, cetartiodactyls or carnivores, but markedly different from mice or shrews, challenging the dominant view about mammalian origin and evolution. Our results imply that long-lived mammals existed in the Cretaceous era, and were the most successful in evolution, opening new perspectives about the conditions for survival to the Cretaceous-Tertiary crisis."

Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22949523


Cytokines in Sarcopenia, Obesity, and Immunosenescence

Posted: at 3:51 pm

A recent open access paper points to changing cytokine levels as a candidate mechanism for a range of conditions that occur with age and are generally made either worse or more likely by the presence of excess fat tissue. The link between being overweight and a higher risk of suffering the common age-related conditions is well known; chronic inflammation is thought to be an important mechanism here due to the way in which it impacts so many different systems in our biology, but the exact details are still open to debate.

Sarcopenia, obesity, and natural killer cell immune senescence in aging: Altered cytokine levels as a common mechanism

An inevitable consequence of human and rodent aging is sarcopenia - loss of muscle mass. Some muscle loss is due to physical inactivity, but even highly trained athletes lose muscle mass and strength with age. Although exercise programs can prevent and/or ameliorate sarcopenia, the effectiveness of exercise interventions to build muscle and effect metabolic improvements is less efficient in elderly subjects than in the young, due to multiple cellular and biochemical changes. ... Adipose tissue gain also is very common in aging and is a growing health concern for all ages. Visceral (abdominal) fat is of the greatest health concern because it is associated with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer, and overall mortality. ... Furthermore, obesity prevents muscle gain in response to functional overload [and] the combination of obesity and sarcopenia (so-called sarcopenic obesity) carries high health risks.

Another hallmark of aging is declining adaptive immunity, with complex alterations in innate immunity. Immune senescence is associated with mortality from all causes, including infectious diseases. Natural killer (NK) lymphocytes are innate immune cells that control intracellular infectious agents and cancers. In contrast to T and B lymphocytes, NK cell number is relatively increased in healthy aging and defects in NK cell function are subtle. However, declining NK cell number or function in aging is associated with death in the elderly. Therefore, mechanisms that preserve NK cell number and function may promote healthy aging.

To relate sarcopenia, obesity, and declining immunity in aging, we speculated that these conditions are linked processes, which are controlled by adipose tissue-derived and skeletal muscle-derived cytokines, known as adipokines and myokines, respectively

You can't really control the degree to which your immune system has been and will be hammered by various common herpesviruses, such as the near-omnipresent cytomegalovirus, but do you have a great deal of control over the fat tissue end of the relationship proposed in this paper. Letting yourself go to seed, getting fat and unfit, has consequences in the long term: a shorter, less healthy life with higher medical bills. Maybe science and those medical costs will dig you out of this hole before it kills you, but why roll those dice if you don't have to? The future of aging, health, and the biotechnologies of rejuvenation on the horizon is already uncertain enough for those of us in middle age today. Every extra year you can gain might make the difference between taking advantage of the first therapies to reverse aging and missing that boat entirely.


StemCells, Inc., Gunning for Another $10 Million from California Stem Cell Agency

Posted: at 3:50 pm

Fresh from winning $40 million from the
California stem cell agency, StemCells, Inc., is shooting for
another, $10 million award from the state research effort.

The latest proposal comes as the
publicly traded firm also faces the task of raising $40 million that it
has promised the agency to match the earlier awards. That figure
could well rise to $50 million given the new application.
Martin McGlynn, CEO of the
well-connected Newark, Ca., firm, disclosed StemCells, Inc.'s,
latest proposal in an article by Catherine Shaffer in BioWorld. She

“Already looking ahead, StemCells has
set its sights on one more CIRM initiative designed to fund early
stage clinical trials over a four-year period. StemCells has applied
for that grant, worth up to $10 million, to fund a Phase II trial in
PMD(Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease).”

The article did not disclose the timing on the new application.
StemCells, Inc.'s lobbying efforts with the stem cell agency were vigorously aided by the former chairman of the $3 billion
California stem cell agency, Robert Klein (see here and here). And Wednesday evening, the company convinced
the state agency's board to overturn two successive reviewer rejections of a
$20 million proposal for Alzheimer's research. The vote was 7-5.
Klein's efforts came in a record-breaking round of appeals and emotional presentations by patient advocates, which triggered complaints from the board this week about "arm-twisting" and politicking. 
StemCells, Inc., was founded by the
eminent Stanford stem cell researcher Irv Weissman, who helped to
raise millions for the ballot initiative that created the stem cell
agency. He additionally appeared in in the campaign's TV advertising.
The campaign was headed by Klein, who ultimately raised $35 million
to convince voters to create the agency. Weissman is currently on the board
of the StemCells, Inc. His wife is executive vice president.
In July, the stem cell agency board
approved the first $20 million award to the firm for research involving spinal injury.
McGlynn told BioWorld,

"We're the only company that has
programs going on in all three regions of the central nervous system:
the brain, the spinal cord and the eye."

Not discussed in the BioWorld article
was a requirement, imposed by the CIRM board, that StemCells, Inc.,
show it can deliver $20 million in matching funds on the Alzheimer's
award before receiving any state funds. CIRM said no such board
requirement existed on the spinal award, but the firm has promised to
match the $20 million on that award as well.
BioWorld described the awards as
grants. In fact, they are loans. But under the terms of the loans, if
the research is not successfully commercialized, it will be


Arm-twisting and Emotion: Stem Cell Directors Move to Reform Appeals on Multimillon Dollar Grants

Posted: at 3:50 pm

Frustrated with politicking,
“arm-twisting,” lobbying and “emotionally charged
presentations,” the governing board of the $3 billion California
stem cell agency today approved short-term changes in its grant
appeal process and ordered up a study to prepare long-term reforms.

The moves followed a prolonged series of appeals on grant applications that began in July and continued through today,
setting records for the number of appeals and generating hours of
sometimes tearful and emotion-laden presentations from members of the
The board adopted changes in the appeal process for its next few meetings that are aimed at curbing its
free-wheeling nature and making it more understandable to the public
and applicants. The board also directed creation of a panel to make
recommendations by the end of the year for more wide-ranging reforms.
Directors of the agency were clearly
not happy with the appeal process this summer. However, it has been a
problem since 2008 when Bert Lubin, now a director of the stem cell
agency and CEO of Childrens Hospital of Oakland, Ca., was the first applicant to make a public pitch before the board to overturn
reviewer rejection of his application.
One director, UCLA medical school dean,
Gerald Levey, said at the time,

"I don't think we can run a board
this way. If we do, it would be chaos." 

Today, CIRM Director Carmen Puliafito,
dean of the USC School of Medicine, said that “lots of lobbying”
was going over the last couple of months. He predicted there will
more lobbying and “more politicking.” Puliafito said,

“On big money grants, people will be
calling their friends.”

The name of former board chairman,
Robert Klein, was not mentioned during this afternoon's discussion.
But Klein vigorously and successfully backed an appeal (see here,
here and here) by StemCells, Inc., of Newark, Ca., for a $20 million
application that had been rejected twice by reviewers. Last night the
board approved the award on a 7-5 vote. It was the first time the
board has approved an award that was rejected twice by its reviewers.
Director Jeff Sheehy, co-vice chairman
of the review group and a communications manager at UC San Francisco,
said the agency is dealing with “big money grants” that are
“incredibly complex.” He also referred to “certain arm-twisting
by certain individuals.”
Several board members made references
to appearances by persons who have diseases or conditions that might
be affected by CIRM-financed research. Director Duane Roth, head of
CONNECT, a San Diego business development organization, said the
board is making decisions in “an emotionally charged setting.”
Other issues cited by directors include
the integrity of review process, fairness, consistency, shifting
appeals procedures, transparency and board discipline on appeals.

James Harrison, outside counsel to the board, said the board's action today includes "eliminating the reference to unpublished data in the discussion of 'material new information," imposing a 3-page limit on other correspondence, explaining that applicants should have seven business days from the time the (grants review group) recommendation is made available to them to file an (extraordinary petition), and posting all of the information regarding these policies in one place on CIRM’s website."

For a list of articles and CIRM
documents dealing with the appeal process, see here.


California Stem Cell Agency Okays $38 Million for Basic Research

Posted: at 3:50 pm

Directors of the California stem cell agency today approved about $38 million for research into basic biology, including two appeals by researchers on applications initially rejected by reviewers.

The governing board turned down five appeals in the round, which attracted 357 applications in its "pre-app" process, 64 of which were invited to apply. Reviewers approved 25 applications.

The following appeals in the biology round were approved:

  • $1.3 million, Deborah Lieu of UC Davis. (Review summary here, appeal here.) 764
  • $1.4 million, Yanhong Shi  of the City of Hope. (See review summary here and appeal here.)

The board also approved another application that was rejected by reviewers based on a recommendation by CIRM President Alan Trounson.  It is very unusual for the board to approve rejected applications based on staff recommendations following a review. Trounson described the grant addressed a major bottleneck in stem cell science.

 The California stem cell agency is expected to post a press release shortly with the names of all recipients. The agency usually withholds names of applicants until the the board formally acts.
(An earlier version of this item reported that the board approved $37 million in grants.)


Florida Researcher Wins $6.7 Million Grant to Come to Golden State

Posted: at 3:50 pm

Dennis Steindler
UF Photo

The governing board of the California stem cell agency this morning approved a $6.7 million grant to recruit Dennis Steindler of the University of Florida to the Parkinson's Institute in Sunnyvale, Ca.

The grant was approved immediately following a 45-minute executive session with no further debate. (For more on this, see here, here and here.)

Steindler later told the California Stem Cell Report he would begin work in California as soon as possible.


Board Concludes Private Session on Recruitment Grant

Posted: at 3:50 pm

The governing board of the California stem cell agency has just concluded a 45 minute executive session on a $6.7 million grant to recruit a Florida scientist to the Parkinson's Institute in Sunnyvale, Ca.

It was the longest executive session ever on a recruitment grant, which are usually approved routinely with little serious discussion.

The board is now resuming discussion of the matter(see here and here.)


Dennis Steindler Application: Excerpt from Review Summary

Posted: at 3:50 pm

The CIRM summary of the review on the
$6.7 million grant to recruit Florida scientist Dennis Steindler to
the Parkinson's Institute in California carried a strong minority report. However, the review itself drew fire this morning from some CIRM board members.
They included patient advocate Jeff Sheehy, co-vice chair of the grant review group, who supported approval of the grant. He noted that the low score reflected two extreme opinions. He said some of the reviewers were doing their research on the Parkinson's Institute on the Internet during the actual review.  Sheehy said that was not a "good way" to perform a review and reflected a "major short-coming." 
Here is an excerpt from the review.

"In summary, this is an
application from an established leader in NSC biology to pursue
research focused on disease mechanisms in PD. Strengths of the
proposal include the quality of the PI, the focus of the project on
an interesting hypothesis, and the leadership in basic science that
the candidate would bring to the applicant institution. Weaknesses
included deficiencies in the research plan, the limited track-record
of the PI in PD research and an institutional environment lacking
adequate support for basic science investigations."

The summary continued, 

"During programmatic discussion some GWG (grant review group) members cited a need to broaden stem cell leadership not only at the
large universities but also at the smaller institutions as well. They
felt that the candidate's recruitment would strengthen the applicant
institution and provide leadership and strength in basic research.
The need for increased research focused on Parkinson's Disease was
also cited by some reviewers. A motion to recommend the application
for funding carried with a majority vote. Because more than 35% of
GWG members opposed the motion, opponents have exercised their right
to have that position reported to the ICOC. The consensus statement
from this group is as follows: 'Despite the facts that the
applicant has many excellent attributes, that Parkinson's disease is
a key area of interest, and that the applicant institution may
deserve additional consideration, our opinion is that the application
clearly falls short in several critical scientific areas that
outweigh the programmatic concerns and do not justify a
recommendation for funding. We believe that the people of California
depend upon us to make recommendations based on our scientific
expertise, for outcomes that are most likely to impact medicine and
the health and treatment of their citizens. We believe that their
money can be better spent.'"


CIRM Board Eyes Florida Researcher for $6.7 Million Grant

Posted: at 3:50 pm

The board of the California stem cell agency is discussing a proposal to award $6.7 million to recruit a Florida scientist to the Parkinson's Institute in Sunnyvale, Ca.

The scientist is Dennis Steindler of the University of Florida. The recruitment award received a score of 57, although the scores ranged from 30 to 75.  Jeff Sheehy, a member of the grant review group and CIRM board member, said the score reflected two extremely divergent positions by two reviewers.

The board has awarded four grants in its recruitment round over the past couple of years, but this is the first extended discussion of an award recommended by reviewers. It is also the first to have a representative of the applicant institution speaking publicly for the grant.

CIRM directors have now moved into executive session to discuss matters they prefer to air in private.


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