A Users Guide To Immortality
Inquiry into the evolution of aging aims to explain why almost all living things weaken and die with age. There is not yet agreement in the scientific community on a single answer. The evolutionary origin of senescence remains a fundamental unsolved problem in biology.
Historically, aging was first likened to “wear and tear”: living bodies get weaker just as with use a knife’s edge becomes dulled or with exposure to air and moisture iron objects rust.
Prospects For Extending Healthy Life – A Lot
But this idea was discredited in the 19th century when the second law of thermodynamics was formalized.
Entropy (disorder) must increase inevitably within a closed system , but living beings are not closed systems . It is a defining feature of life that it takes in free energy from the environment and unloads its entropy as waste.
Living systems can even build themselves up from seed, and routinely repair themselves. There is no thermodynamic necessity for senescence. In addition, generic damage or “wear and tear” theories could not explain why biologically similar organisms (e.g. mammals ) exhibited such dramatically different life spans.
Furthermore, this initial theory failed to explain why most organisms maintain themselves so efficiently until adulthood and then, after reproductive maturity, begin to succumb to age-related damage.
Furthermore, this initial theory failed to explain why most organisms maintain themselves so efficiently until adulthood and then, after reproductive maturity, begin to succumb to age-related damage.
THE IMMORTALISTS – A Short Film By Jason Silva
Aging has been slowed and healthy lifespan prolonged in many disparate animal models (C. elegans, Drosophila, Ames dwarf mice, etc.). Thus, assuming there are common fundamental mechanisms, it should also be possible to slow aging in humans.
Greater knowledge about aging should bring better management of the debilitating pathologies associated with aging, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
Therapies targeted at the fundamental mechanisms of aging will be instrumental in counteracting these age-related pathologies.
Eliminating Cancer With Nanotechnology
Therefore, this blog is a call to action for greater funding and research into both the underlying mechanisms of aging and methods for its postponement. Such research may yield dividends far greater than equal efforts to combat the age-related diseases themselves.
Personalized Medicine: Using an individual’s own genetic information to guide better treatment and prevention of diseases–is one of the most talked-about areas in healthcare. To understand how personalized medicine may play out in real life, consider a frequent traveler whose business takes him or her to Asia, South America or Africa. In all of those places, mosquitoes spread dengue fever–a rapidly-growing, infectious tropical disease for which there is no vaccine.
People who contract dengue fever can have a wide range of reactions. A fortunate few develop no symptoms at all. Others experience a week of flu-like symptoms–high fever, vomiting, headaches, muscle pain or a measles-like rash. However, a small number of people develop a life-threatening variety known as dengue hemorrhagic fever. Diagnosing and treating the disease quickly, especially the more severe variety, has always been challenging for doctors.
How does this relate to personalized medicine? Allan Brasier, director of the Institute for Translational Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) , led a team that identified protein markers that may be able to predict a predisposition toward developing dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever. In the future, these markers could guide physicians to take earlier steps with those who show symptoms and are at high risk for the more serious strain of the disease. They could receive transfusions and other early intervention strategies that could save more lives.
This has been the goal of personalized medicine since the human genome was first sequenced in 1993. “Personalized medicine could eliminate the trial-and-error approach of giving every patient with the same disease the identical drugs or treatment ,” Brasier says. “We can identify subgroups that have the same disease and can be targeted for different treatments based on their genetic information.” The goal is to avoid wasting time and money on potentially ineffective treatments, which expose many patients to harmful side effects.
Genomics and Disease
Clay Marsh, M.D., executive director of the Center for Personalized Health Care at The Ohio State University Medical Center , explains the leading uses for personalized medicine so far have been treatments for cancer and infectious diseases, along with better targeting of pharmaceuticals.
“Cancer is the most clinically applicable domain of genomics in medicine today. A cancer cell is clearly identifiable as the problematic cause of the disease and genetic profiling has identified key cellular pathways to target with specific drugs. Similarly, infectious disease cells can also be genetically fingerprinted for a specific disease, and this is the next exciting application of genomics. Other diseases are proving to be more complex to fingerprint.”
Currently, there are an estimated 300 Phase II or higher oncology drugs that are being developed which have the potential for testing against a genetic biomarker . Right now, molecular testing is helping identify which patients with breast cancer and colon cancer are likely to benefit from different treatments.
For example, a gene expression test has been developed that can help determine which patients with breast cancer might benefit from chemotherapy. Joseph Sparano, M.D., associate chairman of the department of oncology at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care in New York , says the test measures the activity level of a panel of genes within the tumor sample, and the result correlates with the likelihood of having breast cancer recurrence.
Because of this information, doctors can identify a subset of patients who are likely to be cured with surgery and hormonal therapy alone, sparing them the need to undergo chemotherapy after surgery. Clinical trials are underway to help guide treatment of the 25 to 50 percent of patients who fall into the “gray” area–the intermediate risk category–for which the best course of action is unclear.
Pharmacogenomics , the science of how a person’s genetics affects how they respond to certain medications, is another key area of personalized medicine. Variations in DNA affect how an individual’s body absorbs, metabolizes and uses drugs.
Michael Christman, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Coriell Institute for Medical Research , a nonprofit biomedical research institution in Camden, N.J., points to clopidogrel , a medication that is prescribed after someone has a heart attack or stent placement.
“Up to 30 percent of people prescribed the medication do not activate the drug, and may as well take sugar pills,” he says. “However, there is an alternative FDA-approved drug, and if genetic testing were performed for the patient prior to dosing, the best drug could be selected first .”
This is hardly an isolated example. Personalized medicine has the potential to assist the large number of people who are prescribed medication that provides them no benefit because of their individual genetic response.
“Right now, we know that one-third of the people who receive a drug get a positive response, one-third get no response, and one-third get a toxic response,” says Jonathan S. Dordick, Ph.D., director of the Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute . “By tailoring drugs to the physiologic of the person, we can change the number of people who get a beneficial response from one-third to two-thirds. And we can reduce the negative reaction from one-third to one-sixth.”
That means fewer trial-and-error prescriptions and a steep drop in the number of adverse drug reactions, which cause more than 770,000 injuries and deaths a year in the U.S .
Faster Time to Market
Genetic information could also provide benefits in how new drugs are developed. Dordick points out that pharmaceutical companies now focus on developing drugs that have a large enough potential to generate $1.5 billion to $2 billion in revenues. That’s primarily because the complex drug approval and clinical trial process is so costly.
The promise of personalized medicine is that instead of developing, say, one drug for asthma, a pharmaceutical company could develop five different versions of the drug designed for different populations based on their genetics.
However, one issue is that each of these five versions, under the current drug development framework, would need to undergo the expensive drug approval and testing process. That may not be cost effective since the testing costs would increase fivefold, but the amount of revenue the five drugs generate in total would not be five times that of a single version of the drug.
Dordick envisions new testing techniques that would make it more viable to develop a series of drugs for genetic subgroups of patients. For one thing, he suggests eliminating the initial step of testing a drug’s efficacy on rats or dogs–the idea is that if human genetics are so dissimilar that not every drug will work with every human, there is no reason to spend time and money testing the drugs on biologically dissimilar creatures.
Instead, researchers could leverage new technologies that test the toxicity and effectiveness of new drug molecules using individual human cell cultures. In essence, at some point, a doctor could test how effectively a drug would work for you by testing your own cells. If such tools were integrated into the drug approval process, Dordick says they could speed the process, reduce the costs, and weed out unsafe or ineffective drugs early in the process.
“If you are giving a drug to a specific set of the patient population, you can get very high quality candidates for testing and shave a tremendous number of years off the development,” he says. ” Because the limited number of patients can be more easily classified, you will be able to use hundreds of patients in the clinical trials rather than thousands of patients .”
Inventing the Rules
At the same time, medical practitioners say that safeguards need to be put in place for how to use the evolving information about genetics in treatment. The Coriell Institute uses a scientific advisory panel composed of physicians, scientists and ethicists called the Informed Cohort Oversight Board (ICOB) to help determine what genetic variants will be used in guiding treatment for different diseases.
“We generate and present risk information to the ICOB panel that independently judges its validity. We abide by the panel’s expert decisions, even when they disagree with our recommendations,” Christman says. For example, research done by the Institute identified a genetic risk variant for breast cancer. The researchers thought the variant could be useful in determining which women should receive a mammogram at an early age. However, an oncologist on the advisory panel noted the increased radiation risk from the earlier mammograms outweighed the predictive value of the genetic information.
As all this suggests, there are many questions about how to best integrate genetic information into the treatment of patients. Personalized medicine has huge promise, but it also brings up issues such as healthcare, payer and physician incentives, medical record privacy, and the ethics of clinical trials that will need to be worked through.
“This has happened so quickly,” says Brenda Finucane, a certified genetic counselor and president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) . “We have the genetic technology before we have evidence-based models on how to use the technology. This is very different than other developments in medicine, where you had time to think about it for a while and developed evidence-based medicine. We don’t have time, so we are developing practice guidelines on the fly. Patients and healthcare providers will all be learning together as this gets rolled out.”
As the mechanisms of aging are increasingly understood, increasingly effective interventions can be developed that will help prolong the healthy and productive lifespans of a great many people .
Transending Human Capabilities
Transhumanism is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations, as well as study the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies. They predict that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label “posthuman”.
Bone Marrow Stem Cells
You have within you a powerful set of tools to repair your body and keep you healthy. The future of medicine is NOT better drugs but better use and application of your body’s own stem cells . As of now stem cell -rich tissue can be extracted from your hip with virtually no discomfort and used to help restore your body. This opens up an exciting new horizon in terms of preventing and treating disease and tackling the symptoms of aging – if not aging itself. Already, patients are returning to Dr. Steenblock for additional bone marrow treatments because they are seeing that their gray or white hair is turning back to its original color. Their skin not infrequently looks younger too and they report having more energy and less arthritic aches and pains!
In regard to its anti-aging effects, the bone marrow contains primitive progenitor cells that are associated with the early development of the fetus. These primitive cells reside dormant deep inside your bones and sport a genetic profile from your early development. When these primitive cells are released into your system, there can be a revitalization of your body that physiologically “sets the clock back” in-a-way. Several patients have reported that the bone marrow transplants have also improved their sexual performance. This side effect is thought to be the result of stem and progenitor cells repairing sex organs as well as other tissues.
What does this mean for you? Your bone marrow stem cells have the potential to repair damaged tissues and organs. Whether you want an ” anti-aging ” treatment or you need the procedure to repair damage in your joints, liver, kidneys, heart or brain, a bone marrow transplant is an efficient and sure way to flood your body with stem cells.
Simple Test s Determine How Long You’ll Live
The Power of Knowing
Telomere length is one of the best biomarkers of overall health status. It is a major “integrator” of current and lifelong factors that impact health, including genetics, diet, fitness, toxins, and chronic stress. Knowing your telomere length (and monitoring changes over time) can provide valuable information on your disease risk – or even the rate at which you are aging. With this information, you have the knowledge to change the quality of your life and health status at a cellular level.
The Power of Change
Telomeres are the only “changeable” part of the genome, and positive lifestyle choices can increase telomere length and promote individual wellness. Your Cells are Your Guide to Personalized Solutions for Optimal Health Monitoring your telomere length over time can provide insights about potential disease risk and your rate of physiological aging. This knowledge can help to inform your lifestyle and, eventually, as research reveals more specific applications, it may also help inform therapeutic or prophylactic drug choices and decisions.
“Knowing whether our telomeres are a normal length or not for a given chronological age will give us an indication of our health status and of our physiological ‘age’ even before diseases appear,” says Maria A. Blasco , who heads the Telomeres and Telomerase Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Center and who co-founded the company Life Length .
Telomere research pioneer Calvin B. Harley, who co-founded Telome Health last spring with Nobel laureate Elizabeth H. Blackburn , considers telomere length ” probably the best single measure of our integrated genetics, previous lifestyle and environmental exposures .”
Soon the companies will offer telomere-measurement tests to research centers and companies studying the role of telomeres in aging and disease; the general public may have access soon after through doctors and laboratories, perhaps even directly.
When Human Brain Cells Meet Silicon Chips
Direct interfaces between small networks of nerve cells and synthetic devices promise to advance our understanding of neuronal function and may yield a new generation of hybrid devices that exploit the computational capacities of biological neural networks. There are several research teams in the U.S. and Europe that are currently working on so-called neural-silicon hybrid chips.
One of the most celebrated researchers in the field is Ted Berger at the Center for Neural Engineering at University of Southern California in Los Angeles . Berger is also a key player in the newly established National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center devoted to biomimetic microelectronics.
Berger has set his sights on building artificial neural cells, initially to act as a cortical prosthesis for individuals who have lost brain cells to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. But eventually, his lab’s efforts may usher in a new era in biologically inspired computing and information processing.
Berger’s strategy in building artificial neurons has been an empirical one. Rather than attempt to determine every aspect of how neurons communicate, he’s chosen to emulate their behavior, bombarding live neurons from rat hippocampus tissue with every conceivable type of electrical input, and observe what output emerges from the cell. His team at USC then built a silicon microcircuit that behaves accordingly, at least in terms of spatio-temporal patterns of electrical inputs and outputs. The USC team has built circuits that model 100 neurons; their goal is to construct a 10,000-neuron chip model for implantation in primate hippocampus.
The Max Planck Institute in Germany is another center of research on neural-silicon hybrids. Recently, RA Kaul and P. Fromhertz from the Institute and NI Syed from the University of Calgary reported in Physical Review Letters on direct interfacing between a silicon chip and a biological excitatory synapse. The team constructed a silicon-neuron hybrid circuit by culturing a presynaptic nerve cell atop a capacitor and transistor gate and a postsynaptic nerve cell atop a second transistor gate.
They applied a voltage to the capacitor, which excited the presynaptic neuron, and this activity was recorded with the first transistor. When the presynaptic neuron fired, it generated excitation of the postsynaptic neuron, presumably via an excitatory synapses, and the activity in the postsynaptic neuron was recorded with the second transistor. Further, short trains of activity in the presynaptic neuron appeared to increase the strength of the excitatory synapse between the cells, creating a memory trace within the circuit.
These results demonstrate the ability to use integrated capacitors and transistors to stimulate and record from cultured neurons. The neuron-silicon hybrid provides a tool to study formation and plasticity within small neural circuits and may lead to novel computational devices.
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