14 December 2010

News from the Biosingularity

The drug lenalidomide -- related to thalidomide -- may prove to be one of the first in a long line of revolutionary anti-aging medications to slip through the back door of conventional medicine.
In this study, the team tested the drug in healthy seniors, each of whom were matched in race, gender and national origin to a healthy young adult participant. They found that extremely low levels of lenalidomide - 0.1 μM - optimally stimulated IL-2 production in the young people (21-40 years) roughly sevenfold, but stimulated IL-2 production in patients over age 65 by 120-fold, restoring them to youthful levels for up to five days. At that dosage, the drug also increased IFN-gamma up to six fold in the elderly patients, without suppressing IL-17 generation.

The researchers also found that lenalidomide had many other beneficial effects on the elderly participants' T cells, including better migration throughout the body, more efficient patrolling activity and longer survival after defending the body against an infection. _SD
Not for pregnant women, certainly, but not many women over the age of 65 are getting pregnant accidentally.

Another approach to prolonged youthfulness may come by way of "cord blood", blood from the umbilical cord which is obtained at birth. Apparently cells present in cord blood are capable of producing regenerative factors capable of rejuvenating the aging brain.
Laboratory culture (in vitro) studies examining the activity of human umbilical cord blood cells (HUCB) on experimental models of central nervous system aging, injury and disease, have shown that HUCBs provide a ‘trophic effect’ (nutritional effect) that enhances survival and maturation of hippocampal neurons harvested from both young and old laboratory animals.

“As we age, cognitive function tends to decline,” said Alison E. Willing, PhD, a professor in the University of South Florida’s (USF) Department of Neurosurgery and Brain repair and lead author for a study published in the current issue of Aging and Disease (www.aginganddisease.org) . “Changes in cognitive function are accompanied by changes in the hippocampus, an area of the brain where long term memory, as well as other functions, are located, an area of the brain among those first to suffer the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.” _SB
The type of rejuvenation of hippocampal cells demonstrated by the USF researchers suggests that it may be worth our while to keep a culture of HUCBs (or useful substitutes) safe and handy for the sake of our older selves.

Another useful approach to rejuvenating the brain besides pharmaceuticals or stem cell therapies may involve the electromagnetic stimulation of the brain.
Shooting steady pulses of electricity through slender electrodes into a brain area that controls complex behaviors has proven to be effective against several therapeutically stubborn neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. Now, a new study has found that this technique, called deep brain stimulation (DBS), targets the same class of neuronal cells that are known to respond to physical exercise and drugs such as Prozac.

The study, led by Associate Professor Grigori Enikolopov, Ph.D., of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), is the cover story in the January 1st issue of The Journal of Comparative Neurology, which is currently available online.

The targeted neuronal cells, which increase in number in response to DBS, are a type of precursor cell that ultimately matures into adult neurons in the brain’s hippocampus, the control center for spatial and long-term memory, emotion, behavior and other functions that go awry in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and depression. DBS has been successful in treating some cases of Parkinson’s. And recently, it has also proven to work against other brain disorders such as epilepsy and severe depression. _SB
It is likely that routine maintenance for aging humans in the near future will include a wide range of therapies, including stem cells, EM therapies, rejuvenating drug therapies, and nanotech approaches.

Researchers at Salk and Princeton have discovered new ways in which the oncogene protein p53 is useful in the control of cancer. It seems that besides suppressing the early stages of cancer transformation, p53 also suppresses later stage local spread and distant metastasis.
A close collaboration between researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Institute for Advanced Study found that the tumor suppressor p53, long thought of as the "Guardian of the Genome," may do more than thwart cancer-causing mutations. It may also prevent established cancer cells from sliding toward a more aggressive, stem-like state by serving as a "Guardian against Genome Reprogramming." _PO
This opens the door to the use of p53 enhancing therapies in persons whose cancers are already well established -- in the hope of slowing the progression of the disease to allow other therapies to eradicate it.

Another good source of news on the biosingularity front (as well as other science and technology news) is Nextbigfuture:

New artificial bone material to healing from bony injury

New advanced tools for genetic manipulation and engineering

Pluripotent stem cells from adult tissues finding wider use in research

Anyone who has studied Nanomedicine or followed SENS understands that the tools discussed above are just scratches in the surface of the coming biosingularity. But even such scratches may well mean the difference between life and death, vitality and atrophy, mental sharpness and senility, to some who are reading this.

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Blogger kurt9 said...

Nice you call it the biosingularity. Although I consider the singularity itself to be horse-pucky, I think the biosingularity is a real prospect.

I have a different suggestion than the use of umbilical cord stem cells. You harvest cells from your own body, convert them into iPS's by various means, then rejuvenate them with a technique developed by BioTime, Inc, then use these to rejuvenate your brain.

A micro-fluidic chip can probably be made to do the BioTime process automatically.

Tuesday, 14 December, 2010  
Blogger gtg723y said...

I just want to not age and be able to surf the internet with my brain. My only fear is that not aging will be declared a right by the net negatives in our society and then all the net negatives will live forever leaching off the rest of us. We won't even have old age as a predator function. That's right I can find the dark cloud to almost any silver lining.

Wednesday, 15 December, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Kurt: Right, that is a more practical approach.

gtg: Always look for the frontiers. That's where you can find the most freedom as a rule.

Tuesday, 21 December, 2010  
Blogger gtg723y said...

So I will have to become a brown coat? Shiny. Question? Will there be Reavers boxing in this new frontier? Or is that our new euphemism for the section 8 housing dwellers.

Tuesday, 21 December, 2010  

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