Virus’ Winter of Discontent

We “Life Extensionists” spend enormous time, thought and treasure trying to optimize our nutritional intake, aka eating – which may happen 4 or 5 times a day. In contrast, every one of the 24,000 breaths we take each day goes straight into our mouth, trachea, bronchi, and lungs – a vast and immunologically suspect gulp of who knows what. Each and every day, our 24,000 breaths bring in 3,000 gallons, 11,000 liters, 388 cubic feet of mostly untreated air. Let’s focus on what may be hitchhiking into our bodies.

It’s winter. Outdoor temperatures have dropped drastically. Inside, you turn up the heat and pull out the space heaters from the back of the closet. You face (and attempt to prevent) the reality of the cold season: Dry, patchy skin, respiratory infections, nose, eye and throat irritation, the flu and miserable colds. We know it is the season for infections, but what’s less apparent are the invisible and infectious monsters that could very well be thriving in our homes.

The culprit: Humidity levels that are perfect breeding grounds for pathogens. Experimental studies on airborne-transmitted viruses, dust mites and infectious bacteria show that the survival and infectivity of these organisms are minimized by exposure to indoor relative humidity ranging from 45-55%.

Here’s a graph that shows what happens outside that optimal range:


We can see the relationship between indoor relative humidity and adverse health effects. For example:

  • Dust mites are minimized when relative humidity is maintained below 50%
  • Most species of fungi cannot grow unless relative humidity exceeds 60%
  • Humidity affects the rate of out-gassing of formaldehyde from indoor building materials, the rate of ozone formation, and the rate of formation of acids and salts from sulfur and nitrogen dioxides.

Careful management of indoor relative humidity is clearly a key factor to maintaining healthy indoor air quality. Just like the need to ensure that e-coli, botulism, insect parts and other junk is kept out of our food supply, you can craft and manage your own perfect pathogenic valley of death, resulting in a healthier, more comfortable home and work environment.

A simple rule: Keep indoor humidity between 45 – 55%, the safe range where air-borne transmitted pathogens, mites and fungus die before they can get (in)to you.

Next up: How to measure and manage indoor relative humidity in the real world.


Credit: Indirect health effects of relative humidity in indoor environments.
A V Arundel, E M Sterling, J H Biggin, and T D Sterling
Environ Health Perspect. 1986 March; 65: 351″“361.
PMCID: PMC1474709

I’d Like Your Opinion As We Plan for the Future

Greetings!  It has been a while since I sent you an update and there is plenty of good news to share as we work together towards longevity.  I also want your input as we make plans for the coming year.  But first, let me bring you up to date…

Methuselah Foundation has successfully promoted the extension of healthy human life – the science of aging has gained acceptance and broad-based support thanks to your ongoing contributions.  Now we are strongly supporting science that will lead to tissue engineering and organ regeneration.  We will be the catalyst to speed up the development of organ replacement. 

I am continually delving into every area of science, the work being done in universities, labs and biotech companies, to see the latest research and how it might contribute to longer life.  I am convinced that there are many viable solutions but we, uniquely, are in a position to move them to a practical place.  With this mission in mind we created the NewOrgan Prize.  Based on our success with the Mprize, we anticipate this new prize will accelerate the rate of research and bring us closer to practical solutions.  WE MUST continue to accelerate practical scientific solutions related to aging.  You and I – not just our children and grandchildren – should benefit from the advances in tissue engineering that are already on the table.

This is why I need your input.  We are contemplating a number of initiatives in support of this drive but we want to have the greatest possible impact.  I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.  Please continue reading and I believe you will have a clear understanding of the potential and, hopefully, will have some thoughts to share.

What is the NewOrgan Prize?

It is an award that will be given to the first team of scientists to duplicate and successfully transplant a fully functioning new organ made from a patient’s own cells.

In support of this initiative, Methuselah Foundation has invested in two companies that show great promise:  Organovo, the organ printing company I have written about before and Silverstone Solutions, a company that is matching organs to donors in a very sophisticated way through their product, Matchmaker.  This is a “right now” solution for the thousands facing transplants today and it holds promise for additional applications. 


I asked Reason, one of the first members of the 300, to share his thoughts on our role as longevity pioneers in this new challenge:

“We supporters of longevity science are a community in search of the next stage of growth and progress. To this end, we can find many new friends who understand the desire to live a longer, healthier life amongst the broader community of enthusiasts for tissue engineering and organ regeneration.

Through the NewOrgan Prize and related initiatives we can both push forward the science of new organs, grown from a patient’s own cells, and gather new allies to advocate and build the next stage of enhanced human longevity.”

His thoughts reflect my own. 

Now, back to my question…

I value your input and would like to have it more now than ever.  We are at an important point in our development.  We have been fortunate to have the support of donors like you, farsighted individuals and foundations that see the possibilities for longer, healthier living. 

Your generosity and ability to make a sizable contribution are noteworthy.  The 300 has been an important part of the Methuselah Foundation from the beginning.  Your donations make a considerable difference and they inspire others to give.  Look what we, together, were able to do with SENS and Mprize! 

In 2011 we would like to greatly expand our base of support.  We realize that many of those who need an organ and can’t get one, or who have had a transplant and know too well the limitations it imposes, are not in a position to make large contributions.  But they care about the work we are doing.  Many others share our concern for expediting science that will allow us all to live a long life.  But, especially in these difficult economic times, they may only be able to make a small contribution. 

We are now exploring building a system to generate a large number of smaller donations.  We believe there is a sense of urgency in this appeal because many, many people the world over are experiencing the impact of failed organs.  Not just the elderly but young people too.  Last week I attended TEDMED in San Diego and 26 year old opera singer, Charity Tillemann-Dick, opened the conference.  She told of her journey from a diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension to a double lung transplant.  This was a reminder of the threat to all of us and the timeliness of our work.

Won’t you take a minute to give me your suggestions?  Maybe there are features we could add to our website that would attract a broader audience.  Or you may know of some connections that we have overlooked.  We anticipate offering matching gifts for new donors and will be announcing that initiative in the days ahead; is that initiative appealing to you?

Methuselah Foundation is busy working towards real solutions.  Thanks again for your support and encouragement.  And please email me; I would like to have your input today so we can make plans for growth and development in 2011.


Dave Gobel

Founder, Methuselah Foundation


PS  The organ crisis is apparent in my life as it probably is in yours.  I personally know three people right now in various stages of organ failure, one young father, a Methuselah Foundation supporter, recently received a transplant.  But the transplant model is not solving the problem.  While it is lifesaving for some, even they face a shorter, less productive life as a result.


PPS  Please respond, I value your input and seek your suggestions.

New Mprize Competitors, Alan Cash & Holly Brown Borg

We are very pleased to announce the addition of two new Mprize competitors, Alan Cash & Holly Brown Borg. Here are their stories.

Alan Cash
Alan Cash learned about aging the hard way. Although he hadn’t turned 50 yet he experienced a rare and extremely painful side effect of aging. At the time Alan wasn’t aware that our veins and arteries lengthen as we age until an artery pushed into a major nerve bundle and caused excruciating pain in his neck. “I’ve often been accused of being a pain in the neck,” quips Alan, “I guess this was just payback.” A six-hour brain surgery separated the nerve from artery with the help of a Teflon pad.

Although the pain was completely gone, the experience left Alan with “the intense feeling that Aging was bad.” So he decided to do something about it. A lengthy recuperation gave him the opportunity to read about aging. He became fascinated by the work involving Calorie Restriction (CR) by such notable researchers as Leonard Guarente and David Sinclair, because CR was a proven method to slow aging.

He learned that CR leads to changes in metabolism and gene expression that result in increased lifespan and the reduction of the incidence of heart disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, type-2 diabetes and cancer. Alan realized that three molecular pathways that extend life as a result of CR had been identified:

1. Increasing the NAD+/NADH ratio in the cells,
2. Chronically activating AMPK and
3. Increasing the NAD+ levels in the mitochondria.

All of these could be achieved by supplementing the diet with the metabolite oxaloacetate. Oxaloacetate is a human metabolite, and is consumed in the foods we eat on a daily basis, such as apples, chicken, and potatoes, but these foods do not contain enough oxaloacetate to continually activate AMPK, the AMP-activated protein kinase that regulates metabolism.

Working with scientists at UCSD and UCLA schools of medicine, Alan showed that animals given supplements of oxaloacetate have increased lifespan, just like animals under CR. And equally important, others have already shown that oxaloacetate provides many of the same health benefits as CR, including mitochondrial DNA protection, and protection of retinal, neural and pancreatic tissues. Human studies indicate a substantial reduction in fasting glucose levels and improvement in insulin resistance.

With his training as a physicist, Alan strove to take the complex biology of aging and reduce it to a simple idea to slow aging and extend life— mainly to supplement the diet with higher amounts of oxaloacetate. When Alan presented his ideas to a molecular biologist at University of California San Diego, the biologist immediately cleared space and invited him to test his theory! Together they did tests on worms, flies and mice, and the initial data was very promising, leading to journal articles in “Aging Cell”, “Open Longevity Science” and “Anti-Aging Therapeutics.” A simple solution for aging with a human metabolite had extended lifespan!

To publicize the discovery, Alan saw that the Mprize might be the best route, but additional data was required. Various long-term tests of oxaloacetate are underway at UC Riverside, LSU Baton Rouge, and, through the National Institute on Aging Interventions Testing Program, at UT Austin, UM Ann Arbor and the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor. Concurrently, after submitting extensive safety information, Alan received approval to market the new dietary supplement in Canada, Europe and the USA for human use, under the trade name “benaGene”.

Holly Brown Borg
Holly’s acquaintance with Ames dwarf mice led her to aging research. While she was in a postdoctoral position she began working with these small but long-lived mice to do studies on immunology. At that time she was working with Andrzej Bartke, he holds the Mprize for Longevity for a mouse that lived almost 5 years, double the normal lifespan.

After heading to North Dakota, where she became an Assistant Professor in Pharmacology, Physiology & Therapeutics, Holly continued to follow the progress of the mice. Their long life intrigued her. What was it that caused them to live so much longer than other mice?

Holly began exploring so she could understand what it was about these mice, lacking growth hormone, which allowed them to live so long. She explains her hypothesis, “A lack of growth hormone means there is no demand to make protein and turn amino acid into muscle; this frees the mice, metabolically, to fight off internal and external stresses.”

The human nutrition center on campus suggested that Holly turn her attention to methionine metabolism. This essential amino acid is critical for protein synthesis and growth, and is also integral to metabolism. To go a bit deeper, glutathione, an important antioxidant, is generated by the methionine (MET) pathway. Glutathione is made up of three amino acids, the key one in these studies is cysteine. The essential amino acids, MET and cysteine, can be easily modified in the diet.

The Ames mice have highly active methionine metabolism but when they are given growth hormone, this activity goes down. This was the proof Holly needed that methionine metabolism is regulated by growth hormone.
Calorie restriction (CR) is well known to extend lifespan in multiple species. It has also been shown that restricting MET intake (without CR) extends the lifespan of rats and mice. There are similarities in mice subjected to CR and the dwarf mice which suggests there are common underlying factors that lead to slower aging.

According to Holly, “The mechanisms leading to this potential “˜slower’ aging and lifespan extension are unknown. Our lab is interested in pursuing studies altering the level of essential amino acids in the diet and following modifications to key metabolic pathways involved in aging processes and lifespan. The beauty of these studies lies in their simplicity and potential therapeutic value.”

Organomics: A Better System

Just today on the radio I heard a woman talk about the agony of waiting for someone to die so she can live ““ she needs a transplant. Everything she said about her situation, and the hopelessness of many, many others waiting for organs, demonstrated the challenges and limitations of the current system of organ replacement.

We believe it’s time for dramatic change. You already know Methuselah doesn’t accept the idea that “everyone falls apart.” (I have a harder time accepting that each year as I get closer to senior status.) Our vision is a long, healthy life for you, me and everyone on the waiting list for an organ.

This year we are focusing our efforts on tissue engineering and organ replacement. We are looking ahead 10 years and projecting that, with our help, everyone who needs an organ will get an organ. To realize our vision we are advocating nothing short of a whole new system. We call it Organomics. It is the science of organ regeneration combined with the economic means to make it possible.

The promise of Organomics is to provide a new organ to any patient in need, not from a donor or from the black market but from their own cells. NewOrgan Prize was created to reach this ambitious goal.

Methuselah Foundation has been working for years to find causes and solutions of deteriorating health and productivity. I’m glad to be part of an organization that drives science to find solutions that will work for all of us.

I challenge you to be Organomical!
Now that you know the science of NewOrganomics, be part of the economics that make it happen. Join a community of supporters and fundraisers who make the NewOrgan Prize possible and help us invest in the science of tissue and organ regeneration. Please join me in making a contribution today.

How I turned 2 years old on Dec 25th, 2009

I was born in 1952.

I came into this world at a time where every year a horrible outbreak of polio was expected. Shortly after I was able to understand the world around me I sensed that my Mother was afraid for me to go swimming because I might catch polio. I had friends who caught it and I remember visiting them in the hospital where they were imprisoned in their iron lung machines – terrifyingly claustrophobic tubes that mechanically operated their lungs. But, I didn’t contract polio – why? Because of the foresight of many dedicated souls whose efforts over the 30′s, 40′s and 50′s to find a cure resulted in the polio vaccine. Imagine – freedom from worry about polio – it’s mostly gone from my current consciousness – except when I think that I want to create a world where the diseases of aging go the way of polio…to become nothing but a dim memory.

In the early 60′s I lived in Orlando Florida before Disney World. This was a world that was resolutely certain there would be a nuclear holocaust in the immediate future. I remember the Cuban Missile crisis and feeling the shared terror that we would all be blown to incandescent dust at any second. I remember hiding under my desk at school, and my dad trying to figure out how to build a bomb shelter. Happily, cooler heads have prevailed (so far) and now, months can go by and I don’t think about nuclear weapons. This doesn’t mean they’re gone – I just don’t worry about them moment by moment as I used to.

In the mid-late 60′s everyone was horrified that the United States was in a revolution as race riots burned down city after city, where mobs polarized by race were at each others’ throats figuratively and literally, brother killing brother. I remember living in Baltimore during its race conflagration when a terrible riot started flowing toward our house like a lava flow that immolated all things in its path. The riot burned itself out just 5 miles from where we lived…and then the laws changed and now many of my friends are married interracially without worry, something that could have gotten them killed just 30 years ago.

The late 60′s and early 70′s was the era of the Vietnam War. My Brother fled to Canada to escape the draft. I didn’t see him again for 20 years. By the time I was old enough to be exposed to the draft, a lottery had been established and I got a “lucky number”. Then the war was over. Now we trade with Vietnam.

In the 70′s I got married to my wonderful wife two days after Nixon resigned. In those days, people were worried about hyperinflation, overpopulation, environmental suicide, global famine, and the collapse of the economy along with a fast approaching ice age. None of it happen.

So it went and so it goes – each decade presenting both personal and cultural crises that were nigh unto certain to destroy everything…and they *could* *have* *happened*. But didn’t.

So, back to the title of this piece. “I am two years old”. How so? Simple – my father died when he was 55. I am 57, two years older than my father. His father died when he was 53. His father died when he was 50. I have now lived two years longer than any of the last three generations of men in my family. I’ve been able to see my son marry, I’ve seen my daughter learning nursing in college, I’ve made many many new friends and seen and had a hand in driving new innovations that bring potential for reduced suffering and opportunities to pursue joy, both for myself and others – not least of which being the potentials represented by My Bridge 4 Life, and the Methuselah Foundation.

Yes, this year there is legitimate cause for worry. Hyperinflation, hyperdeflation, asteriod hit, global warming, H1N1, cancer, alzheimers, heart attack, traffic accident, and on and on. But I’ve learned that worry is life threatening choice. Now that I’m two years old again, I think it’s time I recognized that life is dizzyingly wonderful – unless you make the choice to turn it into a life sentence of worry and anxiety. As recent research confirms the ancient wisdom, we now know that worry itself can kill…and on the way to killing, it turns life into self-made jail without bars.

So, I am dedicating myself to using these dividend years to consciously and deliberately EXPERIENCE the good times, and to choose to expect that things are going to turn out better than ok. Why? Because – so far – the vast majority of the things that I have worried about have not happened and I refuse to waste any more time with needless worry. Oh sure, one day something will probably get me, but until then, I’m going to pursue joy and actively shove worry out of my life and replace it with optimism.