baudrunner's space: The continuing quest for immortality
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Monday, January 21, 2008

The continuing quest for immortality

When I turned 41, I noticed an alarmingly rapid onset of a series of aging related conditions. When I polled others who were older than myself I found a pattern that had me mentally draw a circle around the number 41. Everyone I talked to who also required reading glasses stated that they started needing them at exactly that age. All the other normal aging related symptoms expressed themselves at about the same time. So I did some research. Among the books that I read on the subject was one titled The Superhormone Promise by Dr. William F. Regelson. In it he describes the substance DHEA, or Dehydroepiandrosterone, which is the molecular precursor to all of the steroidal hormones that essentially make you tick, including androstenedione and testosterone. The amount of DHEA in the bloodstream, measured in picolitres per decalitre, has a linear relationship when plotted against age. That amount decreases linearly as we get older. Dr. Regelson drew the logical conclusion that among other factors, maintaining a consistent level of DHEA in the blood might contribute to increased longevity. So I procured a bottle of DHEA in low concentration from a local nutritional supplement store. The substance has since been banned for non-prescription purchase by those bright authorities in Canada responsible for seeing to it that we live a normal life span and that we don't strain the old age pension budget by living too long. In the U.S. the substance is classified as a nutritional supplement and displayed in cardboard cases visible as soon as you walk into the health food store. DHEA is perfectly safe when ingested in normal amounts since it passes harmlessly through the liver, unlike straight testosterone taken orally. In any event, by taking one capsule early every morning an hour or two before breakfast I was noticeably affected after a couple of weeks. I was beginning to rise each morning with a renewed vigor, absent of the normal lethargy I had gotten used to feeling on getting up. I wanted to address life, rather than just cope with it and yet I did not feel that I was taking anything remotely similar to a drug. I was just revitalised. I then realised that all those negative characteristics which I had been feeling were all aging related symptoms and that it was possible to pull back on the reins of aging simply by taking an oral nutritional supplement. All I did was to boost the normal DHEA levels in my blood to a level consistent with how I felt at about thirty years of age.

Unfortunately, DHEA is not the holy grail of anti-aging therapies - just a great stop-gap measure. In-depth studies of human aging has uncovered the irreversible process of telomere reduction on the chromosomes that make up our DNA. Telomeres are repeated sections of DNA that exist on the ends of every linear chromosome. They ensure that valuable information in the genes is not lost every time a cell with linear chromosomes divides, since not all of the chromosome survives the division process and loses some material from its ends. It has been concluded that these telomeres are vital in the normally healthy individual, and that their deterioration is a product of the aging process occurring as the result of repeated cell division, which we can logically conclude can occur only a finite number of times. We need long telomeres on the ends of our chromosomes to live a long life. Life forms with short telomeres live short lives.

A company called Telomolecular has been developing what it calls telomolecular nanotechnologies to address the issue of aging by regenerating human tissues through "..the delivery of therapeutic agents that lengthen and repair chromosomal telomeres in living animals." In vitro experimentation has shown that telomeres can be regenerated using the enzyme telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT). Cells that were originally doomed to die from old age were immortalized, demonstrating rejuvenated behaviours of vigorous cell division and protein production. The procedure has been proved in the labs of over 800 research institutions.

Additional research has indicated that the enzyme TERT is not usually present in healthy cells, therefore the normal aging process continues. However, cancer cells are not lacking in TERT and this is what causes the continuous and uncontrolled cell division characteristics of cancer. Current experimental therapies are being examined which combine TERT inhibitors with an inhibiting agent that interferes with the enzyme called tankyrase 1, which helps to make the telomeres accessible to TERT. This research has been done by a group headed by Dr. Hiroyuki Seimiya from the Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research in Tokyo.

While the Telemolecular research raises hope in the fight against growing old it should be pointed out that TERT, while effective for all the results claimed in vitro, " molecularly too big to deliver with known pharmaceutical gene therapy tools and its use in vivo has been impractical."

However, the research has demonstrated the potential for affecting longevity and to that end Telemolecular has continued to study ways to affect telomere growth in vivo. Enter the nanocircle, which consist of "..multiple repeats of the complement of telomere repeat sequences." They are smaller than plasmids and promise practical in vivo therapies. They are essentially templates which by using the cell's own machinery can catalyse the growth of natural telomeres in cells with linear chromosomes.

Telemolecular has gone public with an IPO at $7.00 per share. Think what getting in on the ground floor can do for you a thousand years from now!

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