Category Archives: biology

Extreme longevity: The Series – Part I: The Will to Live

 

English: Black coloured infinity sign in circl...


The Will to Live

I am of the belief that a good thesis requires a sturdy foundation. Moreover, I would suggest that a Cartesian foundation, being a truism or otherwise self-evident idea, is the best of foundations. For, such a bottom-most building block assures that the entire proposal is at least based upon something solid and without contention. With a self-evident belief as the foundation, we can then build whatever we might want. Ideally, we shall build up a thesis with pieces that follow from the foundations that lie below them. Additionally, the more self-evident or self-justifying beliefs that are used as foundation, the more room there then is to expand, importantly, with confidence. So, I will start with a foundation that I believe is truly one of the most self-evident truths of the Universe as it is understood by humans, particularly those that are familiar with the life sciences, no matter what level in the hierarchy.

The foundation: That which is alive, wants to stay alive.

This is of course referred to as the will to live. This might not be so self-evident as “I think, therefore I am“, but I do believe it is on the same level as an oversimplified variant of the Anthropic Principle, “Humans evolved on Earth because the Earth was perfect for evolving Humans”.

I must of course address the naysayers who will want to talk about the suicidal. From a purely biological standpoint, individuals that feel this way are not rational living beings and thus must actually be categorized as separate from the otherwise uncategorized “alive”. One who is suicidal is not solely “That which is alive”. They must be considered differently as “That which is alive, but does not want to be”. This is a completely separate state of being from simply “alive”. That which is alive, is simply alive. It takes its life as a given and accepts it. These beings that are alive, want to stay alive.

That which is alive, but does not want to be either does not take its life as given or it does, but rejects it. These beings are not alive, per se, but are conditionally alive, in that, they do not want to be.Another way to demonstrate the contrast is in the dichotomy of “To be” or “Not to be”. “To be” is to be that which is alive. “Not to be” is to be that which is not alive, or to be alive without wanting to be.

Those that be continue to be while those that not be do not.

To summarize, this can be represented as a simple transposition:

That which is alive (A), wants to stay alive (W).
or, If A, then W (A -> W)

That which is alive, but does not want to be (~W), is not alive (~A)
or, If ~W, then ~A (~W -> ~A)

Thus, because “That which is Alive, wants to stay alive” is self-evident, then “That which is alive, but does not want to be, is not alive” is also self-evident. Therefore, “That which is Alive, wants to stay alive” cannot be ruled as fallacious by simply invoking the existence of the suicidal.

(The apathetic are an interesting case. However, for the sake of brevity, that which does not make an effort to not be is still alive. To be considered that which is alive, but does not want to be requires a will to not be. To be alive does not require a will to be, but instead is equal to that will.)

And… we have my self-evident Cartesian foundation. Oh yes, this whole post was simply to establish that my foundation was self-evident. That’s the thing with the “self-evident”. It’s only self-evident after being demonstrated that it is. I might suggest that this is a bit ironic, yes?

So what thesis am I building a foundation for? Stay tuned for Part II… (a teaser)

Dear World, Give me a million (or so) dollars, and I will cure aging. Yes, you. And yes, me, CURING AGING. Let us end mortality.

The path to extreme longevity for Homo sapiens is not one that begins in the far and distant future. No; this path will be revealed as soon our resources  are put in the right place.

Here, I will convince you of the above truth. I will concurrently demonstrate that I am the right person to lead us into this frontier.

 

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I shall fight for truth. I support the war on ignorance

I will fight for Truth. The War on Ignorance starts now.

Your womb is full of tiny dead baby corpses.

This is so close to being the straw that breaks the camels back. I literally almost can not take it anymore. I can not and will not live in a country where such a large proportion of the population is so willfully ignorant and uses their religious beliefs to guide what aspects of science and reality they choose to take as truth.

The United States was once a great nation. We used to be at the cutting edge of all scientific disciplines. We pushed forward the frontiers of universal understanding. Our quality of life was relatively incredible compared to essentially every other country. Our knowledge of medicine, biology, chemistry, engineering, and so on was utterly unsurpassed. Fundamentalism did not used to be so mainstream, although starting with the Scopes Trial, it started to gain traction in the National Spotlight. It did not used to be sinful to want to have an accurate understanding of the universe. Now, we have near 50% of the country who think that scientists and other such thinkers have an agenda to promote godlessness and faux-environmentalism for the benefit of liberalism run amok.

I don’t know if I can take it. I don’t know if I should. But, running away is really not the answer. This country still has all of the promise and resources it once did, but the values that a huge population embraces are completely backwards and downright immoral in the wake of need for human enlightenment given the tribulations that the world is and will be facing.

Citizens and residents of the United States, lovers of science, thinkers of thoughts, those who treasure rational discourse for the sake of understanding, movers of technological and societal advancement, please, I beg of you, remain not docile. We must stand up against this absolute ignorance that is plaguing the minds of so many in this once great nation. We can not sit around motionless and allow our governance to be affected by such foolish fundamentalist beliefs. If you have the ability to communicate truth to those whose minds are absent of it, to those who actively perpetuate their own false comprehension of reality to the masses, please no longer allow it to slide. These are leaders of government, teachers, professors, parents, bloggers, journalists, bankers, small business owners, friends, enemies, and most importantly children. We can not allow the fundamentalist gobbledygook to disseminate to the most impressionable.

There is no force more destructive, more malicious, more truly immoral, in this age of information and absolute potential, than willful and defensive ignorance. We who can do, must do what we can to bring an end to this insufferable tragedy of national intelligence.

Please. We, the thinkers, must declare war on ignorance. Do not allow one more casualty to fall. Truth can save billions of lives.

Edward Osborne “E. O.” Wilson, father of sociobiology, likes cake

E. O. Wilson once gave a talk at my undergrad university about Charles Darwin. I don’t really completely remember why Professor Wilson was talking about Darwin. I think it might have to do with his contribution to a collection of Darwin’s works, From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin’s Four Great Books (Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals). As an aside, Florida State University is notable for keeping a pretty solid relationship with Wilson. If I remember, Wilson either said something about it being the most beautiful campus or that he really liked that it was full of ants and flip-flop wearing college kids who often get attacked by ants; probably the former. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilson did a semi-retired professorship at FSU. Professors such as Sir Harry Kroto (good ol Knight of buckyball)
like to do that because of the weather and genuine beauty of the place.

Anyway, his birthday was the same week that he gave the talk. A lifetime friend of mine, we’ll call her Mensing-san, caught wind that there was a party at some professor’s house. So, being the rebellious undergrads we were, we obviously had to crash it and ask him lots of questions about the evolution of consciousness and crayfish.

I took this picture of him receiving his cake in all his joyousness. The cake is, of course, decorated by the very ants his lab first genetically modified to permit growth to cosmic sizes in order to more easily extract pheromones for societal studies. I shook his hand and told him I studied biochemistry and he told me he knew people who studied biochemistry. We then talked about how much we both think flip-flops are like the contaminating RNase of footwear and how those college kids with eaten up feet are undeserving of sympathy… maybe. Definitely the first part is true, about him knowing people who studied biochemistry, but that didn’t really stick out to me as being noteworthy enough for ending a paragraph.

In any event I still feel that this is truly a picture worth appreciating, of course. Who would have thought that famous philosophers of biology might be the sort to get so excited about cake?

Oh yeah, then he read an excerpt from his novel, Anthill: A Novel. I think it’s sort of like a pseudo-autobiography with a Frog-man and some kid that is obsessed with ants.

Hormesis slide

The antioxidant controversy, illuminated, inspired by misuse of science by Cindy Crawford’s Meaningful Beauty product

THIS IS AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE ABOUT “ANTI-AGING PRODUCTS” and “ANTIOXIDANTS” IN GENERAL FROM YOUR RESIDENT AGING BIOLOGY EXPERT:

Dear anyone who is interested in anti-aging science or products. Do not support Meaningful Beauty by Cindy Crawford. It is complete and utter bunk.

They claim that Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) is extracted from some rare melon in France, with the implication that this enzyme is only present in said melon. Number 1: This is absolutely false. I don’t know what supposed melon they are talking about, but superoxide dismutases (SODs) are extremely conserved enzymes that are present from Bacteria to Humans. They are a very large family of enzymes (Pubmed has over 5000 entries as shown in the link above) that have a variety of uses depending on the situation. Nobody ever legitimately refers to or calls any SOD “The Youth Molecule”.

Number 2: The Free Radical theory of aging holds no longer holds any ground within the scientific community. This is particularly true for those who keep up to date with research related to aging and stress. Thanks largely to Denham Harman‘s The Free Radical Theory of Aging and the models built from its foundation, free radicals, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and oxidative stress in general were once thought to be responsible for the deterioration associated with aging and aging-related changes. It is certainly the case that, in most if not all organisms, a significant overabundance of oxidative stress may have profoundly detrimental effects on cells and tissues that appear remarkably like signs of advanced age. However, for essentially all higher eukaryotes including humans, our cells have mechanisms that deal with ROS and oxidative stress very effectively.

Our cells’ repair machinery is, in fact, so effective that the compensatory mechanisms that are activated in response to ROS and oxidative stress go beyond the initial insult and act to deal with other stresses that have or will cause cellular damage. This phenomenon has recently been dubbed Hormesis (also styled mitohormesis in some articles, referring specifically to Hormesis of the mitochondria; Ageing Research Reviews has a wonderful section dedicated to Hormesis).

Put simply, Hormesis is the process whereby a threshold level of stress results in a compensatory response that goes above and beyond the initial stimulus. This therefore leads to an added protective effect for our cells and tissues. In the case of aging, limited amounts of oxidative stress can activate mechanisms, primarily in the form of stress response factors, which deal with ROS and the affected cellular components. The negative feedback activities of these stress response factors are not necessarily inhibited immediately following resolution of the stimulus. The repair mechanisms continue to propagate throughout the cell.

Other cellular components that have deteriorated, to an extent below the threshold required for stress response factor activation, may also be restored by this propagating wave of repair machinery. These damaged proteins and DNA molecules need not have been the intended “targets” for repair, but because of the cell’s overcompensation for the stress that did reach threshold levels, these other cellular components benefited as well. The ultimate manifestation of this phenomenon is an extension of lifespan and increased resistance to cellular stress. Strikingly, if animals with mildly increased levels of ROS are treated with antioxidants, this treatment completely removes the lifespan increase that would otherwise occur.

This principle is completely translatable to human beings and our lifestyles. A current model building a lot of momentum in the community is that the cardiovascular and other health benefits that have been tied to regular exercise actually extend from an increase in ROS. At least one study has shown that treating humans with antioxidants following exercise eliminates the benefits of exercise. This specific study has been published in the very reputable journal PNAS and is flat out titled “Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans“. In other words, if you run a couple miles then go home and chug a bunch of trendy vitamin water with loads of “antioxidants” you are actually inhibiting the benefits you obtained from that exercise. This is SCIENCE FACT.

Thus, slathering superoxide dismutase all over your skin will not inhibit skin aging. In fact, it is much more likely that any reduction of ROS due to SOD will actually prevent the live cells in your dermis from receiving stress signals that result in an upregulation of processes involved in the removal of that stress. SOD will inhibit Hormesis from occurring and you will actually be facing a detriment by using this.

Bottom line: The antioxidant fad is actually harmful if your goal is to live a longer healthier life. Let your cells’ repair mechanisms do what they are supposed to do.

Capitalized bottom line: SCIENCE NO LONGER SUPPORTS THAT SUPPLEMENTAL ANTIOXIDANTS HAVE ANY BENEFITS FOR HUMANS.

In fact, James Watson, the somewhat controversial figure and one of the initial discoverers of the structure of DNA, has recently endorsed the idea that antioxidants may actually be contributing to cancer. This is possible through the mechanism I outlined above, whereby antioxidants prevent ROS from signaling to repair mechanisms.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to ask me any questions.

PS
This post will likely be updated with more details as I see fit to add them and as the field grows to understand these processes better.