Dear Future Centenarian,
Almost twenty years ago, I bought some furniture from one of the nicest, most gentle men I ever knew. He owned a furniture store in my hometown, Johnstown, PA. That was the first time I met him, even though I went to high school with his son.
He came to my home to ensure delivery went well, and we got into a long conversation. I don’t remember much of the discussion, but a lot of it had to do with aging and how great his life was up to recently. One sentence stuck with me for twenty years and helped shape my future. That sentence was:
“I never thought it would be like this.”
Mr. Gearhart was probably in his 70’s at the time, and he was not aging well. He was afflicted with early-stage Parkinson’s which prompted him to explain to me how aging absolutely sucked. He went on to say he always knew he would grow old, and then he laid that haunting sentence on me. It was a distressing conversation for me and a sad time for his family. I’m sure he’s gone by now, and his death must have been agonizing. He wasn’t one of the “lucky” ones with a squared mortality curve.
A squared mortality curve is where a person stays healthy until he or she dies. Most gerontologists try to square mortality curves to alleviate old age suffering. Most mortality curves decline from birth to death, especially in the later stages of life. That means your health gradually declines as you age, usually severely in the last ten years or so, just like Mr. Gearhart’s. So squaring the curve generally means a quick comfortable death.
A squared curve is not my goal. A horizontal one is. That would be where you stay in top shape with no end in sight. You would see no decline, because you wouldn’t age. (Yes, I know a “horizontal curve” is technically not a curve, but a line. I hardly ever get to coin a term though, so I’m going to keep using it.)
Then, if an accident suddenly ended your life, your curve would then become squared.
If you’re not yet convinced that keeping your mortality curve horizontal is possible, I’m sure you most certainly prefer a squared curve to that of a declining one. Personally, I’m holding out for quality AND quantity.
But whichever your goal is, you will advance toward it by keeping up with the weekly information in Longevity News Digest.
By the way, a horizontal curve is my goal for you as well as for me.
P.S. If you have donated to Maximum Life Foundation and are waiting for your final premiums, your wait is almost over. Stem Cell Products is taking delivery next week of their first inventory of Signals, the breakthrough skin care line. You will be receiving yours soon, and your wait will have been worth it. If you have had a change of address, please let me know.
AVOID CHRONIC INFLAMMATION
Chronic inflammation is a potent source of biochemical damage that contributes to age-related disease. A reminder of the way in which that works and what can be done:
The best short term way of evading chronic inflammation, and thereby increasing your chances to living more healthy years, is to avoid carrying excess visceral fat. But that only gets you so far: eventually even the healthiest immune system in the healthiest body starts to fall into a permanent condition of chronic inflammation called inflammaging. Evolution didn't produce a system that can be used for as long as we modern humans would like."
So when Reason says 'avoid chronic inflammation' he’s not really talking about sane lifestyle choices, although that's very necessary as well. He really means 'do what you can to help advance medical research into repairing our aged immune systems.' As time goes by, you'll find that the greatest determinant of your health and longevity is medical technology that can repair the damage of aging. While we're healthy and active, we should do what we can to advance that medical research; it'll pay off later.
LATEST HEALTHY LIFE EXTENSION HEADLINES
Indy Longevity Mutation Works through Mitochondria (January 23 2009) http://news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2009/01/aging
Another longevity mutation is shown to work by reducing the all-important emission of free radicals from the mitochondria: "first discovered in 2000 [a] mutation in the Indy ('I'm Not Dead Yet') gene [extends] the life span of fruit flies. Subsequent studies of the Indy flies have led to the new finding that a mechanism in those genetically altered fruit flies appears to reduce significantly the production of free radicals, a cellular byproduct that can contribute to the aging process. This intervention takes place with few or no side effects on the quality of life for the fruit fly. The discovery could lead to the development of new anti-aging treatments. There are very few, if any, interventions that are known to dramatically extend healthy lifespan. Understanding how [the] Indy mutation alters the metabolic state of the fruit fly would allow someone to come up with pharmacological interventions that could mimic it and give you the benefit of genetic manipulation without having to do genetics."
Geron Going to Trials with Stem Cell Therapy (January 23 2009) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/business/23stem.html
As the New York Times reports, Geron's embryonic stem cell therapy for spinal injuries is soon entering phase I human trials. Make what you will of timing, and consider that in the absence of the FDA this would already be in clinics: "The clearance of the clinical trial - of a treatment for spinal cord injury - is to be announced Friday. Geron's trial will involve 8 to 10 people with severe spinal cord injuries. The cells will be injected into the spinal cord at the injury site 7 to 14 days after the injury occurs, because there is evidence the therapy will not work for much older injuries. Geron's therapy involves using various growth factors to turn embryonic stem cells into precursors of neural support cells called oligodendrocytes, which are then injected into the spinal cord at the site of the injury. The hope is that the injected cells will help repair the insulation, known as myelin, around nerve cells, restoring the ability of some nerve cells to carry signals. There is also some hope that growth factors produced by the injected cells will spur damaged nerve cells to regenerate." By way of a reminder, we should all be interested in technologies for myelin repair, given the evidence for a general decline in myelin during aging.
Rebuilding Nerves with Viruses (January 22 2009) http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/21991/
From the Technology Review: "Researchers working on tissue engineering hope to eventually be able to use a patient's own cells to grow replacement tissue for damaged hearts, livers, and nerves. But mimicking the structure and function of the body's tissue has proved difficult. Matrices of supportive, fibrous proteins sustain the cells of the heart, lungs, and other tissues in the body. These scaffolds provide both structural support and chemical signals that enable an organ or nerve tissue to function properly. Viruses that mimic supportive nerve tissue may someday help regenerate injured spinal cords. While other tissue-engineering materials must be synthesized and shaped in the lab, genetically engineered viruses have the advantage of being self-replicating and self-assembling. They can be designed to express cell-friendly proteins on their surfaces and, with a little coaxing, be made into complex tissue like structures. Preliminary studies show that scaffolds made using a type of virus called a bacteriophage (or phage) that infects bacteria but cannot invade animal cells can support the growth and organization of nerve cells."
Beyond Stem Cells (January 21 2009) http://www.agemed.org/default.asp?page=ShaneLaskyBeyondStemCellsJan09
A fascinating article: "stem cells are an imprecise physiological system to directly communicate to cellular networks of a host organism. The future of stem cell research will not necessarily be in the transplantation of stem cells to a specific pathogenic tissue region, but rather in reeducating or reprogramming that particular cellular network. Each organism has an exacting molecular blue print, which as a function of epigenetics, is either enhanced or mollified through its interfacement with a particular environmental milieu. Stem cell transplantation is not a precise strategy for amelioratively reprogramming cellular networks, which are compromised. In most instances, the stem cells, which have been transplanted are only inducing a minimum benefit in terms of their medicinal efficacy. Stem cell transplantation is not a therapeutic pantheon, but rather a way to comprehend how to modify a tissue's proteomics or physiological processes. Clinical medicine in the future will not involve providing imprecise cellular substrates, which vaguely impact genetic transcription and translation or millions of stem cells to a pathophysiologic tissue. Medical therapies will [instead] be a precise utilization of peptides which can ardently reprogram an overall.
Regenerating Stroke Damage (January 19 2009) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7795586.stm
The BBC looks at a clinical trial for Reneuron's foetal-derived stem cell line: "A Glasgow team is to launch a major trial to assess whether stem cells can be used to treat stroke patients. If it works, as it has done in animal model systems, it may allow new nerve cells to grow or regeneration of existing cells and actual recovery of function in patients who would not otherwise be able to regain function. For the high proportion of patients who make an incomplete recovery [you] can reorganize the brain, you can help that reorganization with physiotherapy but you cannot cause new nerve cells to grow. The hope with stem cell therapy is that by putting in new cells and new tissue that you can further improve on that recovery. We have only taken one donation of tissue to make this product. We have a technology that is able to scale up an individual cell into all of the cells that are required to treat thousands of patients. We think this is a major plus in the technology we have and really negates the ethical concerns about the original use of fetal tissue."
A Look at Osiris Therapeutics (January 19 2009) http://pharmexec.findpharma.com/pharmexec/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/575911?contextCategoryId=47505
An interview with the Osiris Therapeutics president is as revealing of the way in which the FDA constrains progress as it is of the work being done. Broadly promising scientific applications are held back for years and squashed down to minor, narrowly approved uses - and everyone involved has to speak as though this is wonderful and the best of all possible worlds lest they are targeted for retribution. It's a sorry state of affairs. From the interview: mesenchymal stem cells or MSCs "do three things: They downregulate inflammation, they work to regenerate the damaged connective tissue, and they prevent scarring or fibrosis. That's the Holy Trinity of the mesenchymal stem cell. It's the natural progression or sequence of how we respond to injury. When we're young, that process works well. Children heal in miraculous ways. Conversely, an elderly person will die of something like a fractured hip. This is because children have 1,000-fold more MSC in their body than adults do. What happens is an adult ends up with a very exaggerated inflammatory response, a weak regenerative response, and a lot of scarring. We can reverse that trend by administering MSC. Because MSCs naturally have a broad range of things they can respond to, our job is to package them as something that will satisfy the FDA."
Healthy Aging, Longevity and Life Extension
Dear Future Centenarian,