Michael Yamashita’s Blog Scan

Please welcome the return of Michael’s examination of recent posts of interest around the blogosphere:

… According to BBC, Aubrey de Grey claims that “we will inevitably be able to address ageing just as effectively as we address many diseases today.” Video interview after the jump. What are your thoughts? And each method to do this is either already working in a preliminary form (in clinical trials) or is based on technologies that already exist …
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… Such a title requires suspension of disbelief to sound credible. Not in this case. The video below is from the TED conference, which is arguably the best conference on the planet. Aubrey de Grey is a biologist who has shown me the most credible scientific arguments so far on whether aging can be prolonged indefinitely. It is clear, to the point, and inspiring to watch. …
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… When humans were given the gift of self-awareness they were also given the knowledge of their own mortality. Traditional strategies for coping with this knowledge of mortality seem to fall into five categories: 1. theist: death should not be feared, because there is life after death 2. “newageist”: death should not be feared, because when you die …
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… As mentioned earlier I’ve been spending a decent bit of time watching illuminating talks on TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). And now that I’ve completed the released series thus far, it’s achieved more than the ‘cumulative effect’ it promised. Least to say, I’m completely overwhelmed. Each of the speakers are true leaders in their own …
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… The Courier-Mail reports: MANY people would refuse a chance to extend their life if it meant being lonely, contributing to overpopulation or missing out on the afterlife, a study has found. Seems like a pretty strong negative reaction. But it is also a bit bizarre. First of all, aren’t loneliness and overpopulation a bit contradictory? And the …
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… X PRIZE Foundation Announces Largest Medical Prize in History Really? Largest in history? C’mon, give some credit to the MPrize. Perhaps the fact that the MPrize fund isn’t yet full and, even when full, will only be the same size (not bigger than) the Archon X prize for Genomics, allows the claim. Still, “X Prize Foundation Announces …
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… TED stands for Technlology, Entertainment, and Design – but it means much more than that. TED is a conference where the organizers invite the most insightful thought-leaders, the movers and shakers of our society to come and just talk. To exchange their ideas with an audience and inspire or intrigue. The organizer, Chris Anderson, calls …
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… Link via BBC Two men have been cleared of deadly skin cancer using genetically modified versions of their own immune cells. Immune cells can now be modified to attack breast, liver and lung cancers. Tests showed the genetically modified T cells used in the new treatment became specialised tumour fighters. Although only two of the 17 …
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… ¿Usted quisiera vivir para siempre, o quizá hasta la madura edad de 120 años? Hubo una época en la que vencer a la biología para ser inmortal era una cosa de sueños. Permanecer joven es una fantasía que por mucho tiempo han abrigado multimillonarios que gastan una pequeña fortuna para congelarse criogénicamente a su muerte, con la esperanza de …
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… God wants to kill you: “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever… So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, …
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… Picture by Kevin Perrott Looks can be decieving… This man is Dr. Aubry de Grey from Cambridge University, UK, with 14 years experience with the department of genetics. You may have seen him in the news or even on 60 Minutes last January, but for those of you who don’t know, he is the co-founder of SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible …
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A disclaimer: Please note that the blogs linked to here do not represent any official position or opinions of the Methuselah Foundation, and are presented here for your reading. The blogs we present represent only the opinions of their owners and commentators.

The Spreading of a Healthy Attitude

It is pleasant to see a healthy, sensible attitude to the future of longevity spreading more widely through that great and continuous discussion that is the internet. See this post, for example:

Not being a scientist it was this argument that had most interest to me. I lack the knowledge to be able to comment on reversing damage to cells but I can take issue with the belief that to be human is to die at 70 or even 100.

I find such a belief patronising and analogous to “well-travelled” middle Englanders who take delight in pronouncing how long is appropriate in a particular holiday destination. Tell one of these “know-it-alls” you are going to Paris and they will say “Oh how lovely. Mind you, you wouldn’t want more than a week there. You will have seen everything in a week”. (“See everything in Paris in a week ” I silently cry incredulously) These people will also advise on 2 week limits for a beach holiday (obviously Robinson Crusoe went wrong here) or a minimum period in relation to more far flung destinations like Australia (“Oh you must go for 3 weeks to make it worth while”). Such statements that come out as ex cathedra pronouncements rather than personal preferences put my back up and I snobbily tell them I once went to Chile for a 4 day visit.

Anyway, to return to life, I find statements that human life is limited to 100 years similar to a suburban philosopher saying “Life as a human being. 70 years is nice but you wouldn’t want more than a 100. 110 is too much. Whatever next you’ll be spending a fortnight in Rome!”

Maybe the biggest obstacle to a successful 1,000 year life is our attitudes. By our 20s many of us think we know it all. In our current age especially there is a world weary cynicism, “we’ve seen it all before” attitude. It’s not cool to be surprised, even amazed.

Well if Mr. de Grey is right I would like to think I would be happy to learn something completely new on my 383 rd birthday. When we fear age now, we think of decline and illness but if aging could be “cured” we would be as healthy at 650 as at 35.

What we can achieve for the future of rejuvenation or longevity science is a function of how large and dedicated an infrastructure can be built. The speed with which that infrastructure can be built, and its research community populated, is a function of public support and understanding of the scientific quest to understand, repair and prevent the molecular damage of aging. The more people who come to see matters as in the quoted passage above, the faster this process will progress.

Methuselah Foundation Researcher Wins Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University Scholarship

ASU biochemist John Schloendorn to continue LysoSENS work initiated by the Methuselah Foundation

The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University has awarded biochemist John Schloendorn a $30,000 scholarship that will enable him to pursue anti-aging research as a Ph.D. student in the School of Life Sciences. Schloendorn is part of the institute’s inaugural doctoral graduate assistantship class of 2006.

Schloendorn’s pioneering work concerns a new field of research called medical bioremediation. The research focuses on identifying microbes that possess particularly effective mechanisms to biodegrade the molecular “junk” that accumulates inside cells over time, and is at the root of many of the debilities caused by aging. Schloendorn’s research has been and is supported by a seed grant made by the Methuselah Foundation, a charity dedicated to accelerating the process of discovering methods to defeat the debilities caused by aging.

Schloendorn’s work has led to the isolation and characterization of bacteria that efficiently degrade several recalcitrant cholesterol breakdown products, among them 7-ketocholesterol, that are thought to play a major role in atherosclerosis (the cause of almost all heart attacks and strokes). His future objective is to isolate the enzymes responsible for the breakdown and test their therapeutic prospects in cell models of the disease, with the ultimate goal of creating medical bioremediation treatments for humans.

The work is being conducted in the Center for Environmental Biotechnology, part of Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute. The Center’s director, Bruce Rittmann, Ph.D., is a world-leading environmental engineer and co-author of the original medical bioremediation concept. Rittmann commented, “John’s research on medical bioremediation is a totally new direction for environmental biotechnology. It allows us to use microorganisms directly to improve the quality of human life. The Biodesign Institute Scholarship is a testament to the high quality of researchers that the Methuselah Foundation is attracting.”

Methuselah Foundation Chairman Aubrey de Grey, Ph.D., who devised the “Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS)” methodology for combating the mechanisms of aging, commented, “It is a significant step forward that a modest grant by the Methuselah Foundation has leveraged serious institutional money for SENS-related work; this is an encouraging validation of the SENS approach we have been championing. The Foundation will continue to support John’s research expenses, and is also pleased to accept him into “The 300″, a group of donors who pledge $1,000 per year to the Foundation for the next 25 years.”

About SENS

SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) is a detailed plan for alleviating the debilitation caused by human aging. SENS is an engineering project, reflecting the fact that aging is a medical condition and that medicine is an engineering discipline. Aging is a set of progressive changes in body composition, at the molecular and cellular level, which are side-effects of essential metabolic processes; each of these changes has the potential to be mitigated and eventually reversed. Further details of SENS can be found at: www.sens.org

About the Methuselah Foundation

The Methuselah Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to accelerating the development of foreseeable, science-based therapies to combat aging. Its main activities are the funding of SENS research, and the Methuselah Mouse Prize, which is being offered to the scientific research teams that significantly extend the lifespan of middle-aged laboratory mice. Further details of the Methuselah Foundation can be found at: www.methuselahfoundation.org

About the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University

The Biodesign Institute is located on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University, a comprehensive public metropolitan research university enrolling more than 60,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students on four campuses. The Biodesign Institute addresses challenges to human health by integrating research in biology, chemistry, physics, medicine, agriculture, environmental science, electronics, engineering and computing. As the largest generator of federal biomedical research funding in the Greater Phoenix area, the institute seeks to translate discoveries into applications that are adopted rapidly by the private sector. For information, visit www.biodesign.asu.edu or call (480) 727-8322.

Should Successful Cryosuspension Be Eligible for the MPrize?

I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the concepts of cryonics; the careful low-temperature preservation of the body after death with the hope that future medical technology will find a way to repair both the damage that killed you and the damage of vitrification. If you want to learn more about the science and practice of cryonics, the Alcor website is a good place to start.

The question before us today: suppose a research team manages to reliably restore cryosuspended mice and demonstrate, say, a healthy set of mice born eleven years ago, but that spent ten of those years cryosuspended and not aging. Would that merit a payout from the MPrize fund – recalling that the MPrize is very deliberately method agnostic when it comes to how results are achieved?

This is something of a contentious question, but this set of circumstances seems quite unlikely to arise. I’ll throw my hat into the ring to say that, comparing the relative levels of interest and investment in cryonics and serious anti-aging research, it looks far more likely we’ll have eleven-year-old mice through rejuvenation therapies before we have reliable resucitation of cryosuspended mammals.

If you have opinions on the topic, have at it – that’s what the comments are for.

Archon X Prize For Genomics

We at the Methuselah Foundation are pleased to note the launch of the X Prize Foundation’s latest initiative: a $10 million genomics research prize aimed at speeding the advance of DNA sequencing. Like the cost of processing power for the computing industry, the cost of DNA sequencing is a marker for broad progress in the biotechnology revolution: the cheaper it becomes, the more can be done to advance medicine, health and longevity.

The Archon X PRIZE for Genomics challenges scientists and engineers to create better, cheaper and faster ways to sequence genomes. The knowledge gained by compiling and comparing a library of human genomes will create a new era of preventive and personalized medicine – and transform medical care from reactive to proactive.

The X PRIZE Foundation and scientists the world over dream of the day when we fully understand the human genetic blueprint – enabling us to make informed decisions about our own health and create a brighter future for generations to come.

All medicine – including work on SENS, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence – will benefit from better, cheaper and more reliable infrastructure technologies.

Aubrey de Grey, Chairman and Chief Science Officer of the Methuselah Foundation, commenting on the X Prize for Genomics, said

I applaud Peter Diamandis and his colleagues at the X PRIZE Foundation for taking this bold initiative. Our work so far at the Methuselah Foundation has confirmed that personalised therapies will be paramount in the effort to defeat the processes of human aging. Low cost, mass market genomic analysis, the goal of the Archon X PRIZE for Genomics competition, will leverage our own efforts in a hugely significant way.

More specifically, a direct example is that it will accelerate the characterisation of ALT, the telomerase-independent telomere elongation mechanism used by 10% of cancers. It is exciting to see the synergy developing between these two prizes in leading-edge biological science, the X PRIZE genomics prize and our own Mprize.

You can read more about the proposed SENS approach to cancer at the SENS website:

Research prizes work to advance technology and our understanding of science. The more research prizes in medicine, the better!

Forthcoming SENS Book: Graphics Volunteers Sought

From Michael Rae, Aubrey de Grey’s research assistant:

As some of you know, Aubrey and I have been working for some time on a popular book on SENS science. We are coming up on a publisher deadline, and most of our graphics volunteers have for various reasons bowed out. We really need some folks with the ability to put in some time on at least one (and of course preferably more) illustrations for the book in the next couple of weeks. Projects range from line drawings and graphs to actual illustrations.

Please send email to the Methuselah Foundation if you can make such a volunteer contribution; it would be greatly appreciated, and acknowledged in the book.

Time is of the essence, so step up if you have the talent! I’m looking forward to seeing the final draft; my few behind the scenes glimpses to date have been most promising.