The exercise pill! A synthetic biology triumph in the making! A bio-engineered ticket to the Fountain of Youth!

At last!  Now that the Baby Boomers and even the Millennials are just beginning to think those thoughts of "Am I getting old? Not me!"  Now comes “Compound 14”—a recently discovered molecule triggers  “a chain reaction of events in the cell that . . . well, to make  long technical story short, tricks human body cells into “thinking” the body has just been for a good, solid workout.

Or, put differently, “ZMP” the master regulator, sends the signal that activates “AMPK” the cells’ central energy censor. Got that?

Bottom line: alas, Compound 14 isn’t for sale yet at the corner drugstore, but the work, headed by Ali Tavassoli, a professor of chemical biology, and Felino Cagampang, an associate professor in integrative physiology, is underway at the University of Southhampton in England.

The study, published in the journal, Chemistry and Biology, details how Compound 14 was given to two groups of mice, and the fat, chubby group lost five percent of body weight after receiving it for seven days.

Is that not a big step toward the Fountain of Youth (at least for mice)!

Who knows what wonders await us, thanks to the tools of bio-engineering and synthetic biology . . . provided somehow we can slow the human aging process so we can all hang around until those wonders do arrive.

If you're not ready for the complete paper in the scientific journal, check out this article in the Washington Post by Ariana Eunjung Cha


"Have scientists found the key to eternal life?" -- Are worms showing us the way to radical life extension by reversing the aging process?

“Have scientists found the key to eternal life?”—an article in DailyMail.com, July 24 2015

In a study at Northwestern University, Dr. Morimoto and team found that a certain strain of worms  begin the downhill slide to aging when they reach their equivalent of puberty.

It seems the same gene that causes this effect is also present in humans. Implication (still being studied): perhaps there is a way, using biochemical and genetic methods, to switch the  mechanism that sends the signal: “time to start aging!”  That is, to reverse the aging process, perhaps opening the way to radical life extension.

Is there a way we can prevent that aging switch from flipping—or, even better for the rest of us,  flip the switch in reverse?  Is it a valid step toward reversing the aging process, even toward human immortality?  Who knows? Stay tuned.

Here’s the link to the Daily Mail article

 


Excellent article on radical life extension and girls who never seem to age

I check out Zite (an app on my Ipad) at least once every day, and it's a rare day that I don't come upon at least one excellent article.  Today it was "Arrested Development: The Girls Who Never Seem to Age," by Virginia Hughes.

For one thing, it gives one of the best short overviews what's being done in researching human aging and the concept of radical life extension.

But it also covers the work of Dr. Richard Walker (and his book, Why We Age).

Dr. Walker has had a career-long fascination with those issues, and went down a variety of not-so-productive paths until he came upon the strange, sad phenomenon of young girls who basically never really age, at least not as we know it.  

"Aging is usually defined as the slow accumulation of damage in our cells, organs, and tissues, ultimately causing the physical transformations that we all recognize in elderly people. Jaws shrink and gums recede. Skin slacks. Bones brittle, cartilage thins, and joints swell. Arteries stiffen and clog. Hair greys. Vision dims. Memory fades. The notion that aging is a natural, inevitable part of life is so fixed in our culture that we rarely question it. But biologists have been questioning it for a long time."

 I'll leave you to the article for the rest.

As I said, I found it on Zite, which is a compiler. The origin of the article is not totally clear to me. It apparently appeared August 7, 2014 on Pacific-Standard: The Science of Society, which I had never run upon before, but seems to be filled with fascinating stuff.  And, if I read the attribution correctly, the article, under the title "Arrested Development" earlier appeared in Mosaic.

Article in Pacific Standard

 

 

 

 

 


We need new blood! 'Vampire therapy' could reverse aging, scientists find

"It may seem the stuff of gothic horror novels, but transfusions of young blood could reverse the ageing process and even cure Alzheimer's Disease, scientists believe." -- This the lead item in an article by Sarah Knapton in London's Daily Telegraph. (I used the spelling 'ageing' there, as such is the British way.)  

By the way, I misspelled Sarah Knapton's name in a previous version of this post. Sorry.

Now, before going on, let me say that the experiments so far have only been done on mice, not humans.  

Also, these experiments havebeen done, not in a spooky castle in Transylvania, but rather at Harvard and Stanford. (Does that make the idea less spooky?)

The research, primarily reported in the journal Science, involved eight blood transfusions over a three-week period.

Here's the link to that Daily Telegraph article

Now what they are doing with this finding in the (fictional) Hauenfelder Clinic in the remote mounntains of a certain Eastern European dictatorship I have no idea. (FYI: that Hauenfelder Clinic is the setting for my science technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH.  Not to worry, this is not a plot spoiler: I can tell you they don't use Vampire Therapy there . . . at least not yet!  But they do lots of other thing that push the limits of medical ethics  under the guise of  questing for eternal youth and human immortality for the chosen few!  The Hauenfelder Clinic is, one might say, a Jurassic Park for rich old guys who want to stick around . . . forever.)


New Google division, along with TIME Magazine, follow trail blazed by technothriller A REMEDY FOR DEATH!

"New Google division, along with TIME Magazine, follow trail blazed by technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH" 

Really? I have no way of knowing if Googlers or Timers have actually read A REMEDY FOR DEATH, but that does make a good headline . . . and makes the point that it's not just wacko writers of technothrillers who are exploring the possibilities of life extension, anti-aging methods, regenerative medicine, and the implications of a quest for human immortality.

And is it just a coincidence that the TIME cover -- Can Google Solve Death?-- even echoes the title of A Remedy for Death, even to the use of color changes in fonts? (TIME is lacking the butterfly emblem of REMEDY, as in, "What a caterpillar calls death we call a butterfly")

A REMEDY COVER white 3 w black border 7-19 Time cover-Google+Death


Well, no, seriously I don't believe that TIME has been listening into my computer (though I'm not so sure about Google . .  . but, if so, Google would only do so to help me. Of course. As would the NSA!))

Anyway, what TIME reports is this: Google, ever exploring new possibilities, has set up a company called Calico, with the aim of perhaps finding a way to defeat death itself.  Then this from TIME:

The unavoidable question this raises is why a company built on finding information and serving ads next to it is spending untold amounts on a project that flies in the face of the basic fact of the human condition, the existential certainty of aging and death. To which the unavoidable answer is another : Who the hell else is going to do it?

 It's early still, but what TIME gathered is that the Google/Calico approach will likely involve data collection and crunching rather than brewing up new potions. Which makes sense:

Medicine is well on its way to becoming an information science: doctors and researchers are now able to harvest and mine massive quantities of data from patients. And Google is very, very good with large data sets. While the company is holding its cards about Calico close to the vest, expect it to use its core data-handling skills to shed new light on familiar age-related maladies.

 The article also reminded that. . .

The idea of treating aging as a disease rather than a mere fact of life is an old one--at least as a fantasy. And as a science? The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine has been around since 1992, but the discipline it represents has yet to gain much of a foothold in mainstream medicine. Research has been slow to generate results. Consider Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge, Mass., company built around a promising drug called SRT501, a proprietary form of resveratrol, the substance found in red wine and once believed to have anti-aging properties. In 2008, GlaxoSmithKline snapped up Sirtris for $720 million. By 2010, with no marketable drug in sight and challenges to existing resveratrol research, GlaxoSmithKline shut down trials. Other anti-aging initiatives exist purely as nonprofits with no immediate plans

Read more: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2152422,00.html#ixzz2fMq3cHhF

 It seems Calico will be centered around thet Googleplex in California, a much less secretive and less spooky spot than the remote mountain location in the middle Europe dictatorship where the Hauenfelder Clinic of A REMEDY FOR DEATH is situated.

Of course, the Hauenfelder Clinic is fictional, part of a technothriller, but doggone, it does seem that fact is beginning to follow that piece of fiction.

For another take on TIME and GOOGLE and the quest for immortality, see:

http://valleywag.gawker.com/time-magazine-wonders-if-google-can-solve-death-ques-1342379627

Also, valleywag.gawker.com posted this related item not long ago: "Billionaires will disrupt death if it's the last thing they do."  Seems it makes some billionaires really angry to think they might die! Poor guys! (To quote billionaire Parsons Coulter from my A REMEDY FOR DEATH: "If I can't take it with me, then hell no, I won't go!")   Here's the link to that article:

http://valleywag.gawker.com/billionaires-will-disrupt-death-if-its-the-last-thing-1183186314

 

 

 


"Red wine in a pill"-- will it slow aging?

According to London's DAILY MAIL, the pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline is testing synthetic versions of resveratrol, which is found in red wine, and seems to have the effect of reversing the aging process, even serving as an anti-aging method.

Why, you  might ask, bother with developing a "quasi- red wine" pill?  Why not just drink the red wine itself?  Because you would have to drink something on the order of 15,000 glasses per day.  (This not from the Mail, rather via my memory from another article I can't put my finger on at the moment.)

Back to the Mail: "The work proves that a single anti-ageing enzyme in the body can be targeted, with the potential to prevent age-related diseases and extend lifespans."

Sounds great.  But then some of the reader follow-ups raise another side: (a) what if a miracle drug--this or another--extends human life, but doesn't really help the ills of aging: creaky joints, wrinkled skin, memory and eye problems?

And (b) where will the 150-year olds live, given the continuing influx of "young-uns."

And a point I didn't see in those viewer comments but is raised in my technothriller A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with Body, Soul, and Bio-tech-- what if this breakthrough is reserved only for the elite?  That is, the super-rich, powerful political types, and those who are willing to play along, follow the elites' orders, do whatever?


"SCIENTISTS CLAIM 72 IS THE NEW 30" --- article in Financial Times

From my other blog, MichaelMcGaulley.com.

My technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with Body, Soul, and Bio-tech, is about just that: finding a way to overcome aging and death. In the story-line, we explore issues including regenerative medicine, growing replacement human organs and other body parts, other elements of the bio-tech revolution, and reversing the aging process . . . as well as some of the medical and legal ethical issues involved.

The core issue is this: What if the terms of life have changed . . . for a certain super-wealthy, well-connected elite? What if today's emerging bio-tech and regenerative medical technologies--including the ability to regrow and implant body parts and organs--offer the chance for another whole go-round in life to a select, secretive few?

Intriguingly, this Financial Times also explores that issue, though from a different perspective: "How much longer can we extend life? We just don't know," says Oskar Burger, lead researcher on a pr0ject at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

Dr. Burger's work focuses on how average human life expectancy has lengthened in large part because of relatively mundane things such as better access to clean water, better agicultural technology, and, of course, antibiotics.

But what if we take those kinds of advances, then combine them with other bio-tech research (only some of which has been tried with humans)? But then that would raise other problems: will those added years be happy and productive? What about the effect on retirement funds? What about the generational chasm that could develop between the "new" 30-year-olds, and the real 30's who are still working?

Here's the link to that article in the Financial Times: "Scientists claim 72 is the new 30" But, warning: you will need to register to get the article (free) , but, frankly, I have never encountered a more cumbersome enrollment procedure. I had to go through it three times, feeling as I did that I was caught in an endless loop --- one of those computer traps that you can't escape from and yet can't finish the job. (The term comes from Po Bronson's Silicon Valley novel: The First $20 Million is Always the Hardest.)


Hyperbaric oxygen chambers-- another use, this by Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps

We recently examined here the use of hyperbaric oxygen chambers as a tool to aid recuperation from  slow-to-heal wounds and other health conditions.  Link to that blog post:  "Hyperbaric oxygen chambers--- nowadays not just science fiction."

That was in the context of the role hyperbaric oxygen chambers play in my  medical techno-thriller,  A REMEDY FOR DEATH.

Today I came on another use of hyperbaric chambers, this in both USA Today and in more detail in Toronto's Globe and Mail.

American Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps 16 medals), has been "sleeping at 8,000 feet every night," in a hyperbaric chamber.

According to the Globe and Mail article, these chambers "are used by many athletes to replicate high-altitude conditions and boost levels of oxygen-rich blood cells."  Link to the article by Rachel Cohen in the Globe and Mail

What's particularly interesting to me is that for healing purposes, patients enter the hyperbaric chambers and go as if underwater, where air pressure is heavier.  Phelps and other athletes do the opposite: instead, they use the tanks set to simulate going up where the air is thinner.  That simulated altitude changes the body make-up, stimulating the growth of red blood cells.

And bear in mind the rumor that singer Michael Jackson slept in a hyperbaric chamber to slow the aging process.  Dr. Timothy Adkins (mentioned in my previous post, above) pointed out that he could not have slept all night in a chamber set to simulate underwater pressure: that would have resulted in damage and possible convulsions.

But --- and it is still a rumor, bear in mind --- perhaps Mr. Jackson, like Mr. Phelps, slept in a hyperbaric chamber set to a thinner atmosphere, as if on a mountain. Who knows?


Hyperbaric oxygen chambers--- nowadays not just science fiction.

Science fiction that's not fictional, technology that probably seemed far-out a couple or so decades back but is everyday use now.  I'm referring to hyperbaric oxygen chambers.

As hyperbaric chambers and hyperbaric oxygen therapy play key parts in my medical techno-thriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH, I took advantage of an opportunity recently to visit (as an observer, not a patient) the Center for Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine, a part of the Sebastian River Medical Center in Sebastian, Florida. 

I came away with some photos and info I hadn't previously known, and thought this would be a good place to share as background to readers of A REMEDY FOR DEATH.

  P2010938

 Before there was hyperbaric oxygen therapy to stimulate healing, there were decompression tanks for divers. Initially, decompression tanks were used with divers suffering from the bends, though more recently have been used to reduce the amount of underwater decompression needed from deep dives. (It's a lot more comfortable to sit or lie in a decompression chamber than to hang on a rope in cold water.)

The primary objective in using  hyperbaric oxygen therapy for a patient is to increase the concentration of oxygen in the blood, as a way of promoting healing. For that reason, a lot of the patients attending the Sebastian Center for Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine suffer from diabetic wounds or other injuries that have bneen slow to heal.

Put them in a chamber, pump up the concentration to maybe two atmospheres or so (around what you'd be experiencing as a scuba diver 30-50 feet underwater), then increase the oxygen to 100% from its normal range when mixed with outside air, and healing significantly speeds up. Though, to qualify that, it may take 10, 30 or more sessions in the tank for the desired breakthrough.

Each "dive" lasts from one to about two and a  half hours. (The term "dive" comes from the old use for divers. Besides, if I were a patient, I think I'd rather brag to the gang down at the bowling alley that "I'm going to take a dive tomorrow", than say the ho-hum "off to therapy.")

While in that "dive," the patient lies on a comfortable bed, and can read or watch TV. (But definitely not smoke! Remember how bad things happen when pure oxygen and flames, or even sparks, get together.)  For that same reason-- to avoid any chance of a spark -- the maintenance staff uses special mops and solvents.

Here's another shot of a hyperbaric chamber, this time with the hatch sealed.  The tanks used here are open and bright, so patients don't risk the claustrophobic sense in other "tubes" such as MRI.

P2010939

I said the primary objective in using hyperbaric therapy is to speed healing, that is, helping tissues knit together more rapidly.

But there are other uses, including to help the recovery of victims of stroke or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).  It seems that most of the more visionary experimental work has to be done outside the United States, because of our slow-to-change regulatory mode.

There was a rumor that singer Michael Jackson slept in a hyperbaric chamber in the hopes of staying young. Rumor or true, who knows.  But there is research being done on that now--- can hyperbaric oxygen therapy slow aging?

My thanks to Timothy G. Adkins, M.D., Medical Director at the Center for Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine, part of the Sebastian River Medical Center, Sebastian, FL.  Oh, as to the question, What does it feel like to be in a hyperbaric chamber breathing oxygen?  According to Dr. Adkins, it doesn't feel any different than breathing normal air at normal pressure.


Living to 100 and beyond--- Wall Street Journal

The article "Living to 100 and Beyond" in The Wall Street Journal tackles some key questions:

  1. Are there ways we can "conquer aging" --- at least in the sense of prolonging our healthy  years significantly longer? Not just another year or two, but what about an extra 50 or 150 or 100 years?
  2. If we can, what implications? On society, economics, ethics and the like.

The article, by Sonia Arrison, is based on her new book 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything.

Particularly relevant to this blog, and my related speculative medical thriller, The Life After Life Conspiracy, are some of the anti-aging and related approaches she mentions, certain of which play a role in the plot.  In writing this thriller, I started with the foundation that all of the steps are based on real-world research (though I have in places taken the liberty of going a step or so beyond what has actually been done yet, and in other places combining research in novel ways.) 

That said, areas of  special interest include:

  • Gene therapy, citing the work of Cynthia Kenyon at the University of California, San Francisco. I've been following the work of Dr. Kenyon and her "playing with worms" for a decade or more.
  • Replacing worn-out body parts, using regenerative medical approaches to "build" new replacement parts, including hearts, livers, bones, and others.  She cites the work of Dr. Anthony Atala at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and that of Dr. Doris Taylor at the University of Minnesota.
  • Organ printing--- "printing" stem cells around a scaffold of various types.

Enough. I'll leave you to the article and the book:

Sonia Arrison's article in Wall Street Journal: Living to 100 and Beyond

Sonia Arrison's book, info via Amazon