Date: 24 July 2008.The Biogerontology Research Foundation to support an aging resource at University College London
Further details in the press release.
Date: 21 July 2008. David Fisher Resigns as Trustee
With regret, BGRF co-founder David Fisher has resigned his trusteeship, as he felt current circumstances left him unable to devote sufficient attention to BGRF matters to fulfil his responsibilities as a trustee. He hopes he will be back working with us in the future, as do we.
Nerve cell production points the way to repair aged brains
Scientists at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, California, have revealed that by using genetically programmed embryo cells brain repair is possible. This could be the first reliable method of producing nerve cells, with clear implications for the alleviation of age-related degeneration of the brain and nervous system.
Stems cells reprogrammed in mouse brain
Manipulating cultured stem cells is one thing, but Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have succeeded in reprogramming adult stem cells within a mouse brain. This research may help the treatment of neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, stroke and epilepsy, that not only affect neuronal cells but also disrupt the functioning of glial support cells.
Exercise without effort for the elderly?
Exercise benefits the old just as much as the young, but is often not as practical as we age. It has been recently announced that two possible pills could provide the body with the benefits of exercise, but without requiring any physical activity. Developments like this, born of ever-greater understanding of how our bodies’ cells work, could provide the practical therapies we seek to address the symptoms of aging.
The July issue of The Lancet looks at research into Alzheimer’s and finds mixed progress: one older drug, dimebon, significantly improves symptoms, while a previously-promising vaccine does not, despite complete removal of amyloid plaques. This in turn fuels the debate on whether the plaques themselves are the cause of Alzheimer’s symptoms, and whether it is even desirable to remove them. Indeed, the second article reports a massive 81% slowdown in progress of the disease, by targeting the ‘tangles’ of abnormal tau protein, rather than the plaques.
Identifying genes which protect from the diseases of aging
A new study will sequence 100 genes in 1,000 healthy old people, to try and shed light on the genetic variations that insulate some people from the ailments of aging, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. The aim of this research will be to identify the molecular basis for such individuals’ health, with the future goal of mimicking these effects with drugs.
Genetics vs. wear-and-tear
On the subject of genetics, the debate continues on whether aging is purely an accumulation of damage, or whether there are signals that instruct our cells to behave differently as they age, and whether such signals could be susceptible to genetic manipulation. In either case, the strategy of the BGRF remains unchanged, because what remains undisputed is that damage does accumulate with age, and that such damage causes suffering, but the debate remains of the greatest interest.
Longevity indicators to help tackle aging
A new study attempts to correlate physiology with longevity, with the aim of estimating an individual’s potential lifespan in his youth. Key findings include the highly negative impact of obesity; and the fact that build is a better indicator than other variables such as height.
Creating induced pluripotent cells
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has granted $5.6 million to researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine to support the creation of new pluripotent human stem cell lines. Meanwhile German developmental biologists have found a simpler and safer way for creating induced pluripotent stem cells. It is to be hoped that this kind of basic work lays the ground for developing stem-cell based therapies to alleviate the aliments of age.
Research on cancer vaccinations
A demonstration of the variability of some forms of cancer vaccine shows that immune system cells’ capacity to identify and kill cells of a particular type of cancer varies enormously from person to person, even with medical interventions designed to point the immune system in the right direction.
Insights into the complexity of Crohn’s disese
Genetics gives much cause for hope that we really can intervene in age-related conditions, but a recent publication into Crohn’s disease shows just how intricate the systems in question are. According to the findings, the disease could be more complex than previously thought: 32 genetic variations causing Crohn’s disease have been found by the researchers.
Digest: Economic, Political and General
Videogames for the elderly
Although little in the way of clinical trials has been done, brain-training videogames ofer immense promise for the elderly: effectively restoring brain cells which have atrophied with age. If this approach lives up to its promises, it could be an easy route to regining decades-worth of mntal agility
Optimism on aging
The UCLA’s student publication the Daily Bruin carries a remarkably optimistic piece on the defeat of aging within a couple of decades, based on interventions to repair the damage of old age. Whether this really comes to pass in such a timetable or not, the BGRF is committed to help develop practical therapies as soon as possible.
Books: Mortal Coil
For a view on how today’s research into practical interventions fits into the sweep of mankind’s attempts to defeat aging, David Boyd Hancock’s “Mortal Coil” chronicles this quest with “wit and learning”, according to a review in the Wall Street Journal.