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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

HOW CLOSE IS SCIENCE TO STOPPING AGING?


(You can click on these graphics to read them.)  We all know that tortoises live a long life and flies don't.  Once they reach adulthood, cockroaches generally survive an additional 300 days, but only 10 days without water.  Humans range from 32 years in Swaziland to 82 in Japan, with a world average of 67.

In general, the larger the animal, the longer the life.  However, small dogs have higher life expectancies than large ones.  A parrot's heart can beat at 600 pulses/minute, but they average something over 65 years.


Trees live much longer, as this spruce in Sweden is supposedly 9,550 years old.  


#2 is the bristlecone pine in California, with a life span greater than 5,000 years.    

Will we someday become the oldest mammal...or even tree?  Scientists say yes to the former, but there are too many chances for accidents and illness to approach the longevity of the most hardy trees.

The oldest human was Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who lived to the age of 122 years and 164 days.  American Susannah Mushatt Jones last year celebrated her 116th birthday and is the oldest person today.  Five of the ten oldest ever were from the USA.  Only two were males, both from Japan.

Creme Puff, a cat from Texas, had a diet of bacon, broccoli and heavy cream, and lived to the age of 38, but there is a report of Lucy (right), who lived to 39, or 172 in cat years.  Bluey, an Australian Cattle Dog, passed away at 29, but Chilla, a mixed-breed Labrador-ACD is said to have lived to 32, or 141 in canine years.  It's a lot more complicated than just multiplying by 7.  

December featured a special issue of Science on why we age:
  • Japan
    • In 1965,  9.1 persons supported each senior citizen.
    • In 2015 it was 2.4.
    • In 2050 it will be 1.3
  • There was a time when medical research only focused on what killed you.  Now, preventative medicine is taking hold, and a new field of geoscience is growing to enhance healthy longevity.
  • What determines your biological clock?
    • Telomere (3D view of one to the right) length.
    • Genes and DNA.
    • Long-lived proteins.
    • Metabolites in blood.
  • How to live longer:
    • Dietary restrictions (eat less).
    • Exercise.
    • mTor inhibitors (right)-- Sirolimus, or  rapamycin, is used to prevent rejection in organ transplants, and is now touted to perhaps prolong  your life.
    • Same for metformin and acarbose, anti-diabetes drugs.
    • NAD (look it up) precursors and sirtuin activators, co-enzyme and protein that regulate biological pathways.
    • Modifiers of senescence (process of growing old) and telomere dysfunction, but the danger when you play with this process is inducing cancer.
    • Hormonal and circulating factors, like growth hormones.
    • Mitochondrial-targeted therapeutics.
    • Adjustment of gut microbiota (you have 100 trillion bacteria weighing around 3 pounds in your alimentary canal and only a total of 37 trillion cells making up  your whole body).
Now that you're on the verge of falling asleep (more sleep is really good for your longevity, and, surprisingly, did not make the above list), let me go on to the Palo Alto Longevity Prize to cure aging, announced for competition in 2014 and, sorry, but the deadline for applying was 31 December 2015.  Twenty-eight teams are competing.

The Prizes are dedicated to ending aging:  $500,000 for restoring homeostatic capacity and $500,000 for extending mammalian lifespan by 50%.  Jun Yoon donated the million dollars.
Another longstanding name in anti-aging is Aubrey de Grey from the UK.  He co-founded the Methuselah Foundation, which funds the Methuselah Mouse Prize and Million Dollar New Organ Liver Prize.  Upcoming, awards for heart, lung and kidney.  Peter Thiel is a major sponsor.  Grey is to the left and Thiel second from the right.

More recently, Silicon Valley has jumped into this field:


Read a HuffPo I wrote five years ago:


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