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Archive for the category “health”

Aging Strategy

Maria Konovalenko (whom I took mildly to task on a different issue here and this same issue here) has a recent post up on her blog about the relationship of human aging to disease and the research funding process effects on healthy lifespan extension and traditional disease treatment therapy research processes.

She writes:

Aging is not considered to be a disease at the moment. There is no such indication as aging, therefore one can’t register a geroprotector drug, the one that slows down aging. This is one of the major hurdles in aging research. Even though there are some substances that are proven to slow down aging and protect from diseases, researchers can’t make drugs from these substances. This has to be changed if we want to live longer and healthier.

A perfectly valid observation, marred by her curative prescription:

I think it’s horrible that the NIA people are propagating this idea that aging is not a disease. They are rejecting the opportunity with their own hands. If they fought for persuading the healthcare officials to accept aging as a disease, a lot of problems would be gone instantly.

Let’s be blunt here; the people staffing the US NIA are perfectly ordinary Americans trying to perform their job duties as well as they can in the job environment they occupy.  I expect they by-and-large are well-meaning people who genuinely want to improve other people’s lives medically (and I’m confident Maria herself would not disagree with this observation).  The problem being, the people staffing NIA aren’t free to make funding grant decisions based solely upon science – they work for the US government and so are funded by the US legislative branch of government and directed by the US executive branch of government, both of which are frequently subject to pressures from conflicting points of view.

Basically, having the .gov fund your research virtually guarantees you won’t have much say in the direction your research follows and you will always find your efforts being held up as example of how wrong-headed government funded research is (if only by someone whose pet project/topic of interest isn’t getting funded as well as desired).  The problem isn’t a lack of funding, it’s the funding regulation process itself that’s having such an inhibiting effect on aging treatment research.

In her comments I wrote (in part):

Relying for research (or any other, really) funds from people who are themselves reliant upon the common perception that their opponents can create about them to portray them in a negative light will always result in a tightly constrained and medically questionable (at best) research and development (or pretty much any other, I suggest) environment. Much better, I think, to develop a different model of research funding that minimizes individual influence and maximizes transparency of research process. Government would still have a desirable role in the production and distribution process of medical treatment after all.

My thinking here is influenced by my experience with Khan Academy.  Salman Khan began his education “business” as a series of YouTube videos to tutor his niece who lived in a different city here in the USA.  Serendipitously, he chose not to make the videos private, and others soon found them and began commenting positively about them.  Eventually, financial backing was arranged and Khan Academy became the non-profit education establishment it is still in the process of becoming.

Maria Konovalenko occupies a position from which she is uniquely able to replicate that experience – not for education as such, but for creating a healthy life extension non-profit to fund research into therapies as well as educating people around the world about healthy life extension.

This would not be a quick process (Sal Khan spent 6 years building his teaching model and portfolio to arrive at the formal organizing stage), but she has the credentials and access to the researchers to begin the development process that Sal Khan himself has demonstrated.  An open-ended series of instructional YouTube videos (in as many different languages as Maria can contrive to produce – I’m guessing she isn’t the only multi-lingual hottee of her personal acquaintance – but at least in both Russian and English to begin with) that explain the various principles and research efforts, and maybe some interviews of researchers themselves when possible, would make a good beginning.  Once she has a program of research direction(s) defined “on tape”, she begins the process to attract funding for a non-profit, non-governmental entity to fund research into age-related effects on disease and treatments for aging aspects of (ultimately any) disease or health condition, entirely independent of government or corporate investment in similar types of research.

Maria is quite correct that present research efforts are being artificially limited, both in scope as well as direction.  I hope my comment at her blog will lead her to this page and that she gives these ideas some consideration.  I’m not getting any younger myself, after all.  Yet …

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A Transhuman Strategic Model

Maria Konovalenko is a young Russian woman who works for the Science for Life Extension foundation in Moscow, FRS  On her personal blog she recently put up a post titled Transhumanism Presentation in Tallinn at the NMR Meeting at which she made a live stage presentation of the following notion:

the opportunity to share our ideas about transhumanism as the ideology that can be used as the basis for uniting researchers and increasing the amount of funding.

  The idea seems to be most simply put as, while cooperation between disciplines can extend the available funding, the shortage of research funding is universal to all disciplines of study and won’t be relieved until there is widespread “social mandate” sufficient to compel politicians to allocate public monies appropriately.

It could work.  Maria cites the lunar landings of the ’60’s and ’70’s as support of this technology development model.  I, having personally been alive throughout that whole period of human history, wish to take this opportunity to suggest that there may be a better model to consider, one that doesn’t require that whole [fill in the blank] War framework of competition so critical to the US/USSR Moon Race.

Here in the US, we famously (and rather tiresomely upon occasion, I admit) point to the Preamble to the US Declaration of Independence in support of all manner of sometimes quite silly ideas.  But in this case, I believe the phrase “… that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” might have a more direct and broad application than Maria (and apparently a good many other people) may yet realize.

There are two basic formative concepts of human governance; that power (political or societal generally speaking) and the right to express it comes from an organized government of some description, or that governments are organized to compound and coordinate expression of the power inherent to individual human beings.  In the US, the fundamental socio/political structural assumption is that government expresses some portion of the combined power of the individual citizen’s majority will (this isn’t a political diatribe – we can have that screed/counter-screed go ’round some other time please).  My thought is that there is a transhuman business model in that concept – one that exceeds national borders and is potentially as inclusive of ordinary humanity as honest business practice and scientific research methodology can reasonably provide.

The Transhumanist model Maria and her employer seem to be promoting appears to be largely aligned with the Strategy for Engineered Negligible Senescence first proposed by Aubrey de Grey.  What seems necessary to advance and expand the reach of SENS-type life extension research and human therapies is a determinedly inclusive model of individual investment in, along with individual access to, life extending therapy(s).  Bearing in mind that this is a strategic model and will provoke more questions than answers, consider the following criteria:

1) In the US, a common retirement investment program for individual citizens is the 401(k) retirement plan; person invests a given amount weekly, taxes aren’t due until the money is withdrawn during retirement.  An international bank of solid reliability, for examples sake I’m going to say Swiss, accepts individual and group purchases of ownership shares in a life extension R&D and therapeutic clinic.  Actually, the bank sells stock with a face value of SF1000 in units of 1/100th of a share, referred to as a “point” of ownership, for SF10 each.  There is no trade in stock, nor any form of speculative market permitted (and discouraged by substantial tax and other financial penalties imposed on all participating parties to a trade or speculative market transaction); funds raised are equally divided into R&D and commercial therapy outlets.  To avoid concentration of ownership in the more economically powerful country’s citizenry, charitable organizations are encouraged to purchase blocks of stock for dispersal to their aid recipients in various self-help projects.  The bank creates an individual trust account (with stipulated inheritance details provided by the individual purchaser) as part of the stock sale and any profits eventually earned are deposited in the trust account.  The bank receives SF.001 for every point of stock sold and provides the trust arrangement as a customer service.  Other than the hopefully minimal occasion for collection of inheritance taxes, national governments receive the benefits of their citizenry’s extended tax paying lives.

2) Product quality (either commercial or initially research efforts) must be transparently held to rigorous standards.  I know it’s a stereotype, but it’s a well-earned one, and German standards of research evaluation and product manufacture QC ought to be the starting point from the outset.  Not restricted to German people doing the checking necessarily, but people dedicated to strict compliance with Teutonic attention to detailed accuracy of a certainty.

3) Half of all stock sales funds goes to R&D.  45% of all stock purchase funds goes to therapy clinic development.  5% of stock sales funds is reserved for administrative expenses (coordinating between different component labs and clinics and “government policy outreach” – what we call “lobbying” in the US).  I propose 100 million full value shares for the initial offering.  Once therapies and products do become available for sale, profits are divided among the investors apportioned on a per-share basis.

4) It seems apparent that initial stem cell-based therapies and procedures will largely be of a cosmetic nature.
That is what it is, and what it is is an already massive market.  Early life extension products and therapies promise to range from direct unguents and infusions (to include IV introduction of client-derived pluripotent stem cells) to eventually client stem cell cloned replacement organs and other body parts (this would require a cooperative arrangement with a surgical hospital I would assume); most patients wouldn’t be trauma sufferers.  Even for those that are, taking a cosmetic approach to correcting their injury isn’t an unworkable initial methodology.  

So, how to bring all this together?

Paris Hilton and Rooney Mara.

Paris Hilton has all-too-publicly tried her hand at several businesses and a parade of questionable activities and relationships; she has apparently finally found her place in life (mostly) out of the tabloids and her business niche solidly in the fashion industry – reputedly to the tune of US$100 million.  Ms. Hilton has her own perfume and couture outlets; she also has every reasonable expectation of being given a respectful hearing by her family’s various charitable foundations and trusts.  Hilton Hotels are located around the world; having a Paris Hilton-sponsored life extension therapy clinic co-located with her more usual business product line in every Hilton Hotel world-wide strikes me as a viable starting point for negotiation of a mutually advantageous opportunity for all parties.  The hotel gets added clientele, Paris’ business gets added patronage (initially from people well able to afford her product line) and life extension therapies and treatments get an advantageous premises from which to treat their patient clientele (paying guests of the hotel, of course).  Eventually, the life extension clinic model will extend beyond the confines of any hotel chain, but that’s just an added opportunity for Hilton Hotels (and many others) to broaden their investment portfolio.

Patricia Rooney Mara has a university degree in “international social policy, and nonprofits” and has founded her own non-profit charity Faces of Kibera.  In American football (the one with helmets, ferocious hitting and very sporadic contact of the human foot with the ball in play), the familial names Rooney and Mara are synonymous with words like “dynasty” and “greatness”.  Both families remain financially involved with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants respectively and have each been responsible for the creation of a number of charitable foundations and trusts.  If Miss Patricia’s charity were to purchase a quantity of the stock under discussion, financed by both branches of her family’s other charities, and use stock “points” as either an incentive for aid recipients to work to gain ownership for themselves (or local group entities) or as a product for local market development and local jobs (sales, education, etc), a fairly controlled environment could be created within which to develop tactics and practices for other charitable organizations to base their efforts on elsewhere around the world.  In addition, Ms. Mara’s personal education and public reputation makes her about as promising a spokesperson as can be realistically imagined, I think.

After Maria Konovalenko herself, of course.

Seriously. 

Paris Hilton and Rooney Mara have the assets to represent the “how” of life extension research and therapy very well indeed both on the commercial as well as the investment levels of discussion, but Maria Konovalenko is the one with the passion and the insight into the subject to present the “what” that comprises this novel and extraordinary conceptual worldview to an as-yet unconvinced and distracted public.  Everyone wants to buy something valuable or desirable; Maria Konovalenko has the assets to explain what life extension is and why it should be both real and attainable by ordinary people everywhere.

To sum up; at the least, a minimum of obstructive governmental policy and regulation will certainly be necessary for life extension research to achieve any of its promising potential as human therapies and treatments.  I submit that the primary key to life extension strategic success, however, lies in organizing and focusing the inherent power of the individual human being.  Only people have the capability to create from disparate components and intellectual imaginings objects that never existed before, and the faith and imagination to work for their eventual attainment.

For life extension to become more than a series of failed temptations and dashed hopes, it needs to involve people from all walks of life and every corner of the globe (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase).  Regular people who might not even be able to reliably spell life extension need to have a realistic hope of gaining personal investment in a means of attaining personal financial gain in a world of advancing technology development that leaves them less and less opportunity to succeed in life – with or without extension.

And that last point may be the ultimate saving grace of extending life after all.

And That Gives Me The VC Trifecta

Heard about the Kilted To Kick Cancer hem liftingfund raising effort? If you’ve got a prostate you ought to be digging deep … err, lending a hand … no, that’s not right. You ought to be spending money now since a pinch of prevention is better than having your ass ripped out of you later!

Anyway, I put $10 in Stingray‘s collection plate on Sept. 9th. Me being me (and living in Texas and all), I figured it would be fun to goad JayG a little about the lack of accoutrement’s his kilt had. He really is a sucker for a challenge, so that was another ten spot down for the cause. After that, I pretty much couldn’t pass up the (help me out; honor isn’t really quite the word I’m searching for here) … opportunity to claim the bragging rights so, third time’s the charm if a day late for all that.

Best $30 I ever spent, now cough then get out your wallet and get up off some money too.

It’s A Good Thing I Didn’t Have A Love Life To Start With

Saves me having to choose between it and … well, living.

Introducing my latest (and likely only) sleeping companion, The Snout, including the warm and wet option to complete the sensuousity of it all. With all the hangman’s noose hose and filters, I just tickled the old health insurance for a grand, easy.

What’s the sense in living longer if every woman that arouses your interest staggers off laughing hysterically once she catches a glimpse of your bedroom attire?

CPAP my ass; CRAP!

"ObamaCare" Already Ruled Un-Constitutional?

Last month US District Judge Roger Vinson ruled all of the Obama health care law as unconstitutional due to the failure of the law’s crafters to include any form of severability clause to distinguish between various requirements imposed by the law:

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson agreed with the states that the new law violates people’s rights by forcing them to buy health insurance by 2014 or face penalties. He went a step further than a previous ruling against the law, declaring the entire thing unconstitutional if the insurance requirement does not hold up.

Predictably, the Obama Administration has responded by saying the ruling will be appealed:

The final step will almost certainly be the U.S. Supreme Court. Two other federal judges have already upheld the law and a federal judge in Virginia ruled the insurance mandate unconstitutional but stopped short of voiding the entire thing.

At issue was whether the government is reaching beyond its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce by requiring citizens to purchase health insurance or face tax penalties.

Via Kevin Not-Bacon (a little Vicious Circle humor there) comes notice in this post that the Supreme Court may have already ruled conclusively – if indirectly – on this question:

There is a constitutional right not to be murdered by a state officer, for the state violates the Fourteenth Amendment when its officer, acting under color of state law, deprives a person of life without due process of law. Brazier v. Cherry, 293 F.2d 401, 404-05 (5th Cir. 1961). But there is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen. It is monstrous if the state fails to protect its residents against such predators but it does not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or, we suppose, any other provision of the Constitution. The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties; it tells the state to let people alone.

Bowers v. DeVito (1982)

The key component being, “… no constitutional right to be protected by the state … The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties; it tells the state to let people alone”.

From this ruling, it would seem that it would be “monstrous” for the federal government not to regulate the market regarding health care standards of care and treatment (which it does via the FDA amongst other mechanisms), but that the Constitution forbids the federal government from imposing upon the stipulated rights of individual citizens (“… negative liberties; it tells the state to let people alone”).

President Obama’s health care law relies upon the stipulation of there being a “right” to government regulated health care as a basis for it’s acceptability to the requirements of the US Constitution. Apparently, the US Supreme Court has long since ruled that no such justification exists.

Here’s Your Health Care Reform!

First up is Epigenetic Therapy, a method to control the group of molecules that sit atop and control activation of our individual DNA.

Next up, we have this modest announcement, “Cancer Breakthrough! Scientists crack ‘entire genetic code’ of lung and skin cancer.”. Being able to manipulate defective DNA via precise chemical treatment prior to the cancer developing fully certainly seems promising.

And, to round out today’s trifecta, there’s this: delivery of the first production model 3D Bio-Printer. Need a new organ (or any other body part)? Order one from the factory/lab to your custom genetic requirements. No “body farm”, no chance of tissue rejection, though still requiring major invasive surgery.

We’re beginning to see the realisation of the SENS strategy. If we can only just keep sweeping back the tide for that little bit longer, we can all take our chance to rise with it.

h/t to Brian Wang and my friends at The Speculist. Live to see it, indeed.

What’s for lunch?

Being diabetic, I mostly stick to grilled (baked, actually) skinless chicken in flatbread (I like these best). I spotted something new in the store last week and decided to give them a try.

I have to question the claim that one of these constitutes a meal for two full-size adult people. Still, at a total of 54g Total Carbohydrates per package, these sandwiches offer a suitable alternative to build-your-own for the insulin challenged crowd. I think addition of a mildly spiced condiment provides a desirable enhancement, but the basic taste is quite acceptable straight out of the box (well, microwave).

Added plus, you don’t have to Jerk any Jamaicans. 🙂

Pork chops you say? Ahhh …

A likely story.

Gandhi, Stage 4 (almost)

This article at Wired.com offers an even-handed report on the current general state of gerontological research, in particular as regards Aubrey de Grey’s SENS theory(s).

What I find particularly instructive are the comments.

I frankly don’t know if Dr. de Grey is correct in his speculations or not. I am quite certain (having read his book) that his theories are deliberately structured in a fashion to facilitate their being tested by the scientific community without need of his direct participation. And, equally frankly, I find his willingness to speculate about the potential ramifications of his series of experiments to be both stimulating and cautionary.

What I don’t understand is why any of this should cause such extreme fearfulness in people. What part of living a disease free and healthy life until eventually something kills you is so disturbing to some people? It’s not like it’s going to change our ultimate outcome or anything, we’re still going to go “splat” when we finally do wind up going under the bus. Other than our not having to suffer the aches and pains, physical inabilities and generally being a burden to others that we are forced to endure as the aging process now, of course. Is getting older somehow less scary if it hurts too?

I just don’t get it.

Update: Brian Wang at Next Big Future got there first. As usual … 🙂

Ankleing* our way into the future

An intriguing article in the New York Times Health Guide on the current state of medical technology, specifically the human ankle joint.

I found certain aspects of the interview to be of particular interest:

In orthopedics, the problem with cartilage, the translucent rubbery material that covers and protects the ends of bone, is that it doesn’t want to regenerate. We can get bone to regenerate, but not cartilage in the same way. When cartilage is damaged, the body often attempts to repair it with weaker fibrocartilage, but this is not as durable as the original cartilage. However, we are now actively at work in the laboratory looking to use adult stem cells to repair damaged cartilage, restore surface geometry and function, eliminate pain and delay or prevent further joint destruction.

Did someone say something about a lack of stem cell research in the USA? Sorry, had to get the snark out of my system before it created a blockage or something. I feel better now.

That aside, this paragraph offers hope for more than just ankle joint ailments and injuries. Cartilage exists in every skeletal joint in the human body; being able to repair/regrow it would be an essential capability to achieving the stated goals of SENS I would think.

Research is also being carried out using small molecules that can be used as drugs to stimulate cellular signaling pathways to trigger local cartilage cells to turn on and create more cartilage. We are in the early stages with this exciting research, but as we gain a better understanding of the fundamental biology and the mechanics of the foot and ankle, I expect that we will be very advanced in the next 10 years.

I keep seeing that time period being suggested. Just for the sake of discussion, let’s round it up to the year 2020. Without being too specific, that’s the year when I will qualify for full benefits status as a recipient of social security and medicare.

What I find particularly compelling about the good doctor’s prognostication is that by the time I’m old enough to apply for retirement benefits (I’m deliberately foregoing editorialising via scare quotes), it appears a reasonable expectation that I might well be physically healthy and capable enough not to want to do any such opportunity-limiting thing at all.

Many years ago now, then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich popularised the phrase “Opportunity Society”. One of the tenets that concept stipulated was that we each would need to make ourselves better informed about the (medical in this example) alternatives available to us resulting from technological advances as our personal condition demanded. Our personal experts (the professionals who’s services we individually retained) couldn’t be expected to keep that degree of specific knowledge immediately on-hand at all times. We were going to have to assume some portion of proactive responsibility in guiding our personal regimen, whether that be health related, financial, whatever the topic of interest might be. We will still need the specialised expertise to fully implement whatever course of action is ultimately settled upon, but we each would take a more involved approach to initiating and guiding that determination process.

So, in the present example, it falls to each of us to make ourselves sufficiently informed enough of medical advances to offer reasonably specific suggestions to our personal physician regarding our particular medical condition. Should each of us be successful in doing so, it would appear that we might have a reasonable expectation of living to see some aspect of singularity transpire after all (whatever form that might eventually take).

All a part of staying out from under the bus as I see it.

NYT article via Instapundit.

* English english slang for walking.

Take this – and call me when you’re better

I recently had opportunity to recommend the Neti pot to TamaraK as a low impact method for her to alleviate her sinus problems (you’ll have to scroll well down the comments). Despite her subsequent confession of sissytude (a condition shared by a surprising – to me – number of others) regarding the general sanctity of nasal passages, I can’t help wondering how effective such a device might be as a delivery mechanism for nano-scale medicines?

Granted, only a certain amount of any individual dose would remain inside the sinus cavity (the rest being flushed out along with everything else), but this should allow for a more gradual introduction of the material into the system via absorption through the sinus tissues. Should a more rapid introduction be desired, then an inhaler or direct transfusion would still be viable – if more invasive – options.

Regarding the still-mythical respirocytes hypothesised by Ray Kurzweil, and unlike Phil Bowermaster apparently, I certainly do want the capabilities he mentions whether or not I have any particular “need” for them. I regard such choices as being analogous to the choice provided to US citizens by our constitution’s 2nd amendment. The decision to exercise the right isn’t predicated on any degree of need; any effort now or in future to restrict such medical options as Kurzweil’s respirocytes ought to be as strongly resisted as are infringements on our right to firearms. We are each free to elect not to exercise the right, but no-one should have the blanket authority to impose when or if we may make such a choice for ourselves.

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