Monthly Archives: September 2014

Longevity Gene Therapy Is the Best Way to Defeat Aging

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Gene engineering is the most powerful existing tool for life extension. Mutations in certain genes result in up to 10-fold increase in nematode lifespan and in up to 2-fold increase in a mouse life expectancy. Gene therapy represents a unique tool to transfer achievements of gene engineering into medicine. This approach has already been proven successful for treatment of numerous diseases, in particular those of genetic and multigenic nature. More than 2000 clinical trials have been launched to date.

We propose developing a gene therapy that will radically extend lifespan. Genes that promote longevity of model animals will be used as therapeutic agents. We will manipulate not a single gene, but several aging mechanisms simultaneously. A combination of different approaches may lead to an additive or even a synergistic effect, resulting in a very long life expectancy. For this purpose, an animal will be affected by a set of genes that contribute to longevity. In addition, a gene therapy of all major age-related pathologies will be developed to improve the functioning of individual organs and tissues in old age. As a result, we will develop a comprehensive treatment that will not only dramatically extend lifespan, but will also prevent the decrepitude of the body. Experiments will be conducted in old mice. Thus, in case of success, the developed method of aging treatment can be quickly moved to clinical trials.

The goal of the project is to develop a complex gene therapy that will drastically increase mouse lifespan and prevent tissue pathology in old age, coupled with the safety assessment of the treatment.

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Mitochondria and its role in aging

Mitochondria

Today was an amazing lecture by Dr. David Lee about mitochondria and its role in aging. Dr. Lee started with an overview of what mitochondria is and what it does. You may have heard that the origin of mitochondria is bacteria that was engulfed by the cell early in the course of evolution. There are several things that back this «endosymbioic» theory:

  1. Mitochondria self-replicates
  2. It has two membranes
  3. It has its own independent DNA
  4. The ribosomes are similar to those of bacteria
  5. The sizes are very alike
  6. Mitochondrial DNA shares similar to bacterial structural motifs
  7. The inner mitochondria membrane has a more bacterial-like lipid composition

Mitochondria vary from 0.5 to 10 micrometers in size. Their outer membrane is freely permeable, it let’s in and out proteins less than 5000 daltons. The inner membrane, however is tightly regulated, nothing gets in or out without the special transport. Inner membrane forms cristae that curve inside to maximize the surface for energy production.

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Hollywood Must Turn Its Head to Personalized Longevity Science instead of Anti-Aging Pseudoremedies

This attention-worthy article in The Hollywood Reporter signals that Hollywood people are ready and willing to do something about their longevity. The article mentions hormone replacement therapy, different check-ups and other things available in California, however completely misses 99% of what actually can be done about aging – science. Why doesn’t the author talk about the work done at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, USC, UCLA and Stanford University?

People are looking for a ready solution, something that they can do today, and mistakenly dismiss science completely, because they think it is too far away for being applied to them. Well, this is a wrong approach. Science can be applied to a particular person’s health. It is called personalized science. It means that we can treat a given person’s health as a scientific task. There already are several examples for personalized science in action.

Martine Rothblatt created a pharma company to invent a cure for her daughter Jenesis’s rare disease primary pulmonary hypertension, she hired the best researcher in that area back in 1996 and they created the pill that significantly improved the well-being of these patients including her daughter. This venture turned out to be quite profitable as well as being life-saving.

The other example is Michael Snyder and his recent attempt to analyze “omits” data about himself. Dr. Snyder is the Head of Genetics Department at Stanford University. He was measuring 40,000 parameters and by analyzing all this health data, his team managed to spot the onset of type 2 diabetes way earlier than he would have noticed it using conventional methods.

So, there is so much that can be done using scientific approach to health. It is not cheap, and at this point of time this kind of personalized science is for the wealthy, however the Hollywood Reporter article is exactly for this kind of crowd, it describes quite expensive health services that don’t necessarily yield results. I believe the message that science is a very powerful tool to increase longevity has to be brought to the general public, especially here in California where a great number of outstanding aging research facilities are situated.

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Biology and Biology of Aging Resources

We have prepared a list of resources that can help understand biology of aging. We tried to find easy to grasp information sources and compiled a list of lectures, audio courses, popular science books and articles on biology in general and biology of aging in particular. The selected resources probably don’t exhaust the whole picture of aging science, but they shed light on the main ideas and research directions in this area.

For those who have never studied biology systematically, we suggest to take a look at the MIT “Introduction to Biology” course.

These lectures are mainly about different aspects of molecular biology, biochemistry anad genetics. Beside that, the course provides understanding how this knowledge can be applied in real life: in gene engineering and molecular medicine.

A good online course «Useful genetics» from Coursera.org addresses genetics and its applications.

One of the lectures from this course is by the way about genetics of aging.

“Frontiers in biomedical engineering” course was presented at Yale University and is available on Youtube.

Additionally you can listen to the audio course on molecular and cell biology from UC Berkeley.

Now let’s talk about biology of aging. For starters you can read a popular science article in National Geographic titled «Longevity». It provides the most general knowledge about the genetic mechanisms that regulate aging. A very detailed description of aging on various levels (from molecular to whole organism) is provided in the books «Biology of Aging» by Roger B. McDonald and «Biology of Aging: Observations and Principles» by Robert Arking. There was a couse at MIT on biology of aging, age-related diseases and potential therapies, “The Biology of Aging: Age-Related Diseases and Interventions”, the website provides the summary. The topics that are mentioned in this course generally depict the main research avenues in biology of aging and the can be used as reference points for self studying.

Moreover, we have put together a list of lectures given by prominent scientists that provide a look at aging from different perspectives. The lecture by Vadim Gladyshev is devoted to the topic of various theories of aging – “Molecular Cause of Aging”.

Noteworthy are the lectured by the leading scientists from Stanford University, Thomas Rando and Anne Brunet  -“Longevity and Aging in Humans”

and by Janko Nikolich-Zugich from Arizona State University – “The Biology of Aging: Why Our Bodies Grow Old”

Nir Barzilai, Director of Aging Research Institute at Albert Einstein College of Medicine gave a lecture on genes, facilitating longevity in humans – “The role of protective genes in the exceptional longevity of humans” by Nir Barzilai .

Konstantin Khrapko talks about the role of mitochondia in aging – “Mitochondrial Genetics of Aging”.

Judy Campisi, professor at the Buck Institute for Research onaging, gave a talk on the relationship of cancer and cell senescence – “Cancer and aging: Rival demons”

Additionally, several lectures are about the aging of the brain – “The Aging Brain: Learning, Memory, and Wisdom,” by John Gabrieli.

and «The Aging of the Brain» by Carol A. Barnes

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