Interesting research was performed by Dr. Natalie Berube’s group from Western University and Lawson Health Research Institute about the role of ATRX gene and its role in brain function and aging. The paper, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, tells us the story of premature aging in mice that lack ATRX gene.
Apparently, if we completely switch off this gene, mice will have reduced growth, shortened life span, lordokyphosis, cataracts, heart enlargement, and hypoglycemia, as well as reduction of mineral bone density, trabecular bone content, and subcutaneous fat. These all are signs of premature aging. Researchers found that on molecular level animals with no ATRX gene develop severe damage of telomeres in their brains, specifically in the forebrain and anterior pituitary and reduced levels of thyroxine and IGF-1.
Basically this means that ATRX gene is responsible for maintaining DNA integrity. Less DNA damage – better survival. The animals didn’t have ATRX gene in their brains only, therefore all of the detrimental effects were apparently due to effects of embryonic development. Hence, ATRX must be a crucial protector from DNA damage in proliferating cells.
Here comes the important question – what happens to ATRX activity in humans during aging? Does it remain the same as it is in a young body? It would be interesting to investigate this, because if ATRX activity is lover in older people than in younger ones, then it means that this gene is securing our longevity, apparently by protecting us from DNA damage. In this case, it could be another target for longevity therapy.
This is Dr. Johnathan Rothberg of Life Technologies who is the first researcher to oficciall register for participation in the Archon Genomics X Prize. The Archon Genomics Prize is an award given by the X Prize Foundation for the first man to sequence 100 whole genomes of centenarians in less than 30 day for $1,000 or less. BBS reports that Dr. Rothberg believes this may be a good start towards finding the “fountains of youth”.
I found it very interesting that Dr. Craig Venter is the originator of the prize. This may be an indication that he is pro-longevity in mind. We’ve already known that he is one of the greatest biologists, but this may serve as an indication that he is in favor of life extention technologies. It would be really great if he worked in this area himself, because ssynthetic biology holds a lot of promise for advancing the longevity technologies. Just imagine a bacteria that lives together with the cells and adds the “good” longevity proteins and suppresses the production of the “bad” aging ones. There’s a chance we can make the cells live longer. Of course, gene regulation is extremely complicated, but one can always start with a simple model and see if it works.
I really enjoyed the talk by Cynthia Kenyon on possible “weak points” in aging processes that can be “attacked” with drugs. Her idea is to identify substances that would make FOXO proteins more active. These proteins are associated with longevity not only in model animals, but also in humans.
The more TED Talks about ways to intervene in aging processes we have, the faster people all around the world would understand the feasibility of life extension therapies. By the way, I was glad to see that there are quite a lot of folks, advocating for longevity in the comments discussion about the video. I think this is another sign of TED audience becoming more and more educated and open-minded in regard to the idea of radical life extension. I would like to address the TED events organizers and ask them to do more talks on the topic of aging.
I found it quite interesting that mutations in multiple myeloma are located in the genes involved in NFkB pathway. This chain of events in the cell activates as a response to various kinds of stress, such as cytokines, free radicals, ultraviolet irradiation and other stressors. NFkB is a transcription factor which is responsible for activating genes linked to increased inflammation. Multiple myeloma genome sequencing revealed that this molecular pathway is altered. So apparently there’s a link between the aberrant activity of NFkB and cancer, and I would like to point out that there’s probably a link to aging as well. It is most likely that inhibition of this pathway may lead to cancer incidence reduction and also anti-aging effects. It has already been shown that pharmacological blocking of NFkB pathway prolongs lifespan in drosophila. Read the paper by Dr.Alexey Moskalev who’s done this experiment.
Open genetic data combined with medical and phisiological information will change the way medicine works – treatments will be personalized and more effective, plus there will be new therapies created specifically for particular patiens. This will significantly improve and prolong our lives. George Church started the Personal Genome Project wich has this exact goal.
I enjoyed the Technology Review interview with Dr. Church about the future of induced pluripotent stem cells. Loved the quote:
“I’m thinking a lot about using regeneration as the key to treatments and keeping people healthy.”
Massive genome sequencing holds promise for entirely changing our society. Cancer genome sequencing already proved to be effective, we’ll find out a lot about our disease risks and causes and we’ll be able to cure and prevent deleterious diseases. That all will prolong our lives. Plus we’ll be able to find all sorts of new links between our genomes and behaviour like the “cheating” gene.
Geneticist Elizabeth Worthey worked on the first-ever treatment of a patient based on DNA sequencing, helping doctors decide to give a bone marrow transplant to a 6-year-old boy who had suffered through more than a hundred operations. Now Worthey, an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, is part of a team working to comb through the sequences of five more children.
Every Friday, she and her colleagues at Wisconsin Children’s Hospital meet to go over cases that other doctors have put forward for DNA sequencing. There have been about three dozen requests. An insurance company has even agreed to pay for one of the cases, although the money is not yet in the bank and the hospital will not disclose either the insurer or details about the patient. This is the first time that an insurer is known to have agreed to pay for the sequencing of an entire human genome!
“For some of these kids there is no alternative,” Worthey says, “You either guess, you do nothing, or you do something — in this case, sequence their genome.”
I’ve recently come upon this Internet interview on the Singularity Webblog and would love to share it with you. Andrew Hessel is a very interesting personality: being both a geneticist and computer scientist, Andrew co-chairs the Bioinformatics and Biotechnology track at the Singularity University, abvocates Synthetic Biology and is a founder of the Pink Army Cooperative, an open source biotech company, which has a totally great goal – applying Synthetic Biology to create personalized anti-cancer drugs.
Andrew shares his thoughts about the main future goals and applications of Synthetic Biology. He gives a perspective on how exactly Pink Army Cooprerative is going work on creating the anti-cancer drugs and why he believes this open source cooperative approach is much more efficient than the common drug candidate search-testing-verification process.
Read more about Andrew Hessel and his work
70-year-old Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev appears to have a keen interest in radical life extension and longevity research. Nazarbaev has repeatedly used his post as president to call for renewed research into medical immortality. Recently in a speech to students marking the opening of Nazarbaev University in Astana, Nazarbaev spoke of the need for research on topics such as: “rejuvenation of the organism…the human genome…production of human tissue…the creation of gene-based medicines.”
Earlier this year, Nazarbaev was granted powers that will, in effect, allow him to serve as Kazakhstan’s president for life, whether formally in office or not. Two months ago, Roman Kim, a Kazakhstani of Korean descent and a delegate to Kazakhstan’s People’s Assembly, proposed that Nazarbaev should stay in power until at least 2020.
“As for the medicine of the future, people of my age are really hoping all of this will happen as soon as possible,” Nazarbaev said.
It seems like aging is something the ruler has been worried about for a while. In October of 2009 he was quoted as saying:
“One important subject is anti-aging, or the study of prolongation of life,” he told an audience at the Kazakh national university in Almaty. “However difficult such investigations are, these questions must be resolved sooner or later. Why shouldn’t our scientists take on this task? Would it not inspire our Kazakh youth who are now living through the great moments of passion?”
Also in 2009 at a government science committee meeting he said: “Anti-aging medicine, natural rejuvenation, immortality, that’s what people are studying these days. Those who do are the most successful states in the world – those who don’t will get left on the sidelines.”
Read more about this story from CBS News