My friend Joi likes to say that a person needs six hugs a day to maintain their sanity. And there’s enough research behind that thought to warrant consideration. Having your personhood affirmed by tactile reinforcement can go a long way in our increasingly disconnected world. I was reminded of this today as I was walking home from the library and spotted a woman wearing a Superman shirt like mine. Hers was a rebirth era, and mine is classic, but Superman is Superman. So we laughed, claimed a bond only true comic book fans can claim, and then, catching me completely by surprise, she hugged me. We held there for a moment, wished each other well, and went our separate ways. You know what? The world needs more random hugs. And if you can’t do that, hug someone anyway. You’ll thank me when you do. [Read more…] about Free Hugs!
It’s 2019. The past, lurid and confining, is behind us. Right? I mean …. oh, seriously? Okay. I surrender. We’ll do this again until people get it straight. Women have been doing the science thing for a bit and we’d probably be staring at the moon, instead of walking on it, were it not for them. But, as the World News Center official girlfriend discovered, this is not important news. One nice human took time out of his busy day to enumerate on all the men who were behind the photograph of the black hole which became public this week. However, as my buddy Father Julio noted, they may have been on the bus, but a woman was driving it. And that woman was named Katie Bouman. Before I get to her, and her amazing accomplishment, I thought I’d take a moment to provide a refresher course in human history. [Read more…] about Boldly Going
Science is often seen as an immutable thing. It simply is. But, for anyone who’s paid any attention to science, they know that’s woefully misguided. Science, by its very definition, evolves constantly. When new things are discovered that reject old knowledge, the new is embraced. Some things are perceived to be ancient knowledge and aren’t at all. They are merely a product of modern prejudices. For example, while there are morons today who believe the Earth is flat, they are a relatively new phenomenon. Ancient Greeks knew the Earth was round. As did Polynesian sailors. And pretty much anyone involved in trade. Eratosthenes, three hundred years before Christ was born, knew that there needed to be a method of determining latitude so sailors, and other travelers, could figure out where things were on the planet. [Read more…] about Ooops
The headline might seem a touch off putting but it was the best way I could think of to get the point across. While science fiction has long considered the idea that there could be some sort of mandatory maximum age (Logans Run, Star Trek: The Next Generation and others), the idea seemed ludicrous to most. We barely lived long enough to register as a flutter against the geologic scale of time, why would we happily kill ourselves? Way back in January of 2014 I wrote an article about how science had discovered a set of genes which could impact our lifespans. It was a more innocent time. The article more whimsical than worthy of serious consideration.
Well, that was then. This is now.
Christopher McFadden, over at Interesting Engineering, took a look into the current status quo and decided that immortality is no longer a matter of if but when.
The average human lifespan has increased dramatically over the last 100 years. This has been achieved largely, thanks to the fruits of our advancements in technology, science, and medicine – but could we ever achieve immortality?
Using things like vaccinations, we have been able to exterminate life-threatening diseases like smallpox. But pathogens, predators, and accidents aside, could we ever modify the way we live or our very bodies to become immortal?
In order to do this, we will need to overcome some of the major issues that cause us to age, and eventually die. Science has identified four key processes that cause us to age:-
– Chronological aging
If these can be reduced, stopped or eliminated, we may just be able to live forever.
Here are 11 potential technologies and theories that could help us achieve the ‘Holy Grail’ of eternal life. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.
1. Regenerative Blood Transfusions Could Extend Human Life Spans
Although the concept sounds a little ghastly, dare we say vampiric, it could be used to extend the human lifespan by 10-20 years, perhaps more. Scientists have observed that a protein called GDF11 is very common in the blood of young mice but itis scarce in older mice.
This protein has been shown to increase skeletal muscle and increase heart strength. If it can be replicated and combined with our growing knowledge of synthesizing blood, regenerative blood transfusions could become commonplace in the not so distant future.
2. Longevity Pill’s Could Extend Our Lifespans by 15%
A pill that triggers the anti-aging enzyme Sirtuin 1 could, it is estimated to extend the human lifespan by as much as 15%. One example has been developed by a startup pharmaceutical company called Elysium whose Basis (NAD+ Supplement) is thought to slow down the aging process.
It is the culmination of 25 years of research and has begun human trials – so you might see in a chemist’s near you soon.
3. Nanotechnology Could Fight Cancer and Repair Cells
Self-replicating nanobots could perform vital life to extend functions in the future. They could be used in a variety of complementary ways from directing attacking cancer cells to performing repairs to our bodies at the cellular level.
4. Identification and Introduction of Longevity Genes Could Increase Average Lifespans Above 100 Years
Scientists have been trying to identify “longevity genes” by studying 152 Spaniards and 742 Japanese Centenarians. This recent study did identify several gene variations these groups share.
This is also supported by other work using gene therapy on yeast involving the protein ISW2. This showed that lifespans could be extended by 25% using this sort of technique.
5. Gene Therapy Could Extend Could Make Us Immortal
Studies have shown that if gene therapy can induce cells to express telomerase it can slow down the biological clock. Experiments in 2012 were actually successful on mice and extended their lifespan by as much as a 1/4.
This research is widely recognized as a “proof of principle” for the principle of life extension using gene therapy techniques.
6. Metamaterial Bionics Could Make Us Superhuman
Metamaterials are artificial materials that have been engineered to have properties not normally seen in nature. These could be used to create artificial organs and augment existing organs (like our eyes) to make you stronger and live longer.
Researchers are already exploring using them to replace defective human cochleas.
7. Robotic Avatars Could Make Us Cybernetically Immortal
Scientists believe that we may be able to save and upload copies of ourselves in the future. – so-called “cybernetic immortality”. These could then be installed into robotic bodies or avatars that would, in theory, enable us to live forever.
This process could be repeated ad infinitum as robotic avatars break down, have accidents or become obsolete. Robotic avatars like these are already being researched by organizations like the 2045 Initiative.
8. Molecular Manipulation Could Add 4 Centuries To Our Lives
Some researchers were able to extend the lifespan of some worms by manipulating the molecules that affect insulin and other nutrient signals. If the results could be replicated in humans, it might be possible to extend the human lifespan up to 500 years.
Scientists like Dr. Pankaj Kapahi are currently exploring this field in detail with some very interesting results.
9. Suspended Animation Could Help Us Live Forever
Suspended animation has been a common feature of science fiction for many years, but it could be a viable way to extend human life in the future. Doctors have been able to freeze and revive patients over a period of a few hours – a process called “induced hypothermia”.
This process slows down the body’s metabolism to such a level that it can put the body ‘on pause’. It can, of course, also kill if the timing is off. Such a technique, once perfected and extended, could be used to induce a kind of human ‘hibernation’ that could last, in theory, forever.
10. 3D Printing Organs Could Extend Our Lives
3D printing is developing incredibly fast and could soon be used to routinely print replacement body parts, like the human heart. Advancements have been made very recently by a UK team successfully printing replacement corneas is helping push this technique forward.
If this technique could be extended to using fat and collagen to print new hearts, this could add decades to donors lives.
11. Cloning Organs Could Help You Live Forever
And finally in our list of theories and technologies that could extend our lives is an alternative to printing organs – cloning. Cloning is not a new technology but it could be used to grow new parts of your own body.
Scientists have already been able to grow body parts like ears, bone, and skin and once perfected for more complex organs it will be used indefinitely to extend someone’s life.
Genesis 6:3 ESV
Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”
Okay, enough science, let’s move on to philosophy and a bit of history. According to the Bible God set the maximum age of man at 120 years. Oddly enough science came to the same conclusion a couple of thousand years later. Since there are many long lived people in the Old Testament it’s generally agreed that somehow things changed. Some people, who are both theologians and scientists (and there are more than you might think) call this change “the God gene.” Something that was inserted into man after the famous flood.
Or, if you prefer, people never really lived nine centuries, and 120 years seemed like forever, so that was a good limit to hang on to.
Either way, 120 years is what we basically have carved out for ourselves.
Now, that’s changing. And rapidly.
Take the GDF11 protein mentioned above. Besides showing promise at turning back your clock, it also has shown promise for quashing Type II diabetes. As for replicating it and giving people “young blood” let’s call it a work in progress.
The gene therapies mentioned above were recently upgraded and attempted on worms (we share some cool genes with them) and, WA LAAA, they lived a lot longer. Like four times longer. Which would put the human bar at 480 years.
Simply put the future is here.
There are those who think that extended lifespans will be great because that means humans can work longer.
There are humans who think that’s a shitty idea and would prefer to use their extended lives doing something constructive or self empowering.
Then your 401K, or other retirement plan, comes into play. They are not designed to last that long.
What’s the point of life insurance?
Til death do us part?
Think of any social norm you can pop into your pointy head and then consider the ramifications.
Long lives? Less babies. What do you need them for?
Less babies would bring us to global population stabilization. But, and this is key, it also means we’ll have to interact more positively with those people. We have one earth and immortal conflicts, no matter how cool they look in Underworld, aren’t really productive.
Technology? People tend to resist change. And, if you’re comfortable where you’re at why would you invent anything new? So you can kiss innovation goodbye.
And, in the end, the question is no longer how long do you want to live but when do you want to die.
No matter what god or gods you believe in, if you’re a spiritual person you have some concept of what happens to you after you die. Religions are, after all, a guide for how to live this life so that your next will not be awash in torment. Even if you’re not spiritual, being nice to people and treating them with respect isn’t a bad way to count your days. All that being said many people think that science and religion are too disparate to be welded together. I’m not sure I agree. Both are looking for the ultimate answers to all things. It’s just that religion starts with the answers and back fills the discoveries in and science starts with nothing and looks to front fill their world. My guess is that, someday, they’ll meet in the middle. Then, who knows?
One of the things science has started taking a look at is the concept of an afterlife. I’m not just talking about the religious versions, but the nuts and bolts of it. Can our ancestors speak to us? Do we go somewhere when we pass from this mortal coil?
Maybe is the general answer. The longer version follows. And it starts with worms.
The nice folks over at IFL Science tell about the joys of worm genes.
First, let’s step back a bit and take a look at the basic science behind this highly peculiar characteristic of biology.
Your genes are inherited from your parents, and theirs from their parents before them. If these mutate, your genetic inheritance changes with it. However, changes to how your genome “expresses” itself – how it behaves, essentially – can also occur due to environmental changes, like ingested chemicals, exercise, and psychological issues.
When your ancestor goes through a period of excessive stress, this “experience” can be added to your genome. An extra layer of information is placed on top of your DNA sequences. The DNA sequence itself doesn’t change, but its “clothes” do, so to speak. Generally speaking, this is known as the vaguely defined field of epigenetics, which means “outside genetics”.
The authors of a new Science paper describe it more precisely as “transgenerational transmission of environmental information.” It has already been seen in humans – Holocaust survivors’ descendants, for example, have lower levels of the stress-hormone cortisol in their blood, which means they’re more vulnerable to stress and fear.
This particular study looked at C. elegans nematodes, types of roundworms with very short lifespans. The researchers genetically engineered them to carry a glowing gene, a protein that fluoresced, so they could track it under UV light.
They then placed the worms in a cold environment and watched as the gene glowed, but dimly. Moving them to a warm environment, they saw the gene glow far more brightly. When they were moved back to the cold room, the gene continued to glow, which suggested the “memory” of the warm environment was maintained.
Incredibly, when these worms reproduced, this memory, via this glowing gene, was passed on through an unprecedented 14 generations, no matter whether they received it via eggs or sperm. This means that their offspring would be “aware” of the warm environment even without having experienced it themselves.
“We don’t know exactly why this happens, but it might be a form of biological forward-planning,” lead author, Adam Klosin of the European Molecular Biology Organization, said in a statement.
“Worms are very short-lived, so perhaps they are transmitting memories of past conditions to help their descendants predict what their environment might be like in the future,” co-author Tanya Vavouri, a researcher from the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute in Spain, added.
In short, memories can be passed from one generation to the next. It’s doubtful that humans could pass something as obvious as a specific trait, as evidenced in the worms, but elements of traits do appear to come down. You “take after” relatives because genes somewhere in your familial history espoused those traits and passed them along. Not just hair or eye color but a love of music or art or something else intangible.
Going even further, Katherine Gillespie, of VICE, interviewed Dr Berit Brogaard, a University of Miami philosopher specialising in the areas of cognitive neuroscience and philosophy of mind to see if those memories could be accessed.
If we were to have memories from our ancestors stored in our DNA, how would they have got there?
** The memories would have to shape the genetic material in a way that can be carried on to your children. So firstly you’d have to have the memories before you have children, and they would have to have impacted your genetic material in a way that would be manifested in the genetic material of your child. If that hasn’t happened, then there’s nothing to unlock the memories.
What evidence have we seen of this happening?
** There’s evidence in rodents that you can breed learning how to run a maze into the next generation. So that’s something that has been shown rather recently: that if rodents find themselves in a certain maze, and their parents had learned some things about the maze, then the little rodents don’t have to start from scratch when they learn to navigate it. This at least shows that it is possible that you can have some memory in your genetic material and this material is carried on.What’s the relationship between memory and instinct—is it possible that our survival instincts are based on the memories of our ancestors?
** In some sense, instinct could be considered a form of memory from our ancestors. Instinct is carried on in the genes—so in that sense it’s genetic and it shapes your brain in a certain way. To that extent, it resembles memory, because it’s also the way of wiring the brain a certain way. So we could consider instinct as a simple form of genetic memory, though usually when people talk about genetic memory, they are interested in something more superficial.
Like specific memories from the life of a great grandmother, or something like that.
** Yes, whereas instinct is more a way of remembering something that has been carried on through the generations from ancestors. A good example would be how babies have an instinct to actually crawl towards their mother’s breasts so they can breastfeed, even though they lose that ability afterwards. And that’s an instinct of family that’s been carried down, maybe from a time where the mother may not have been fed enough to take the infant to her breasts if it was a really difficult childbirth. But that’s not the episodic “great grandmother” memory most people want.
Make sure to click on Katherine’s name to read the entire interview. It’s fascinating and enlightening.
Even if you can’t find out what your great grandmother made for dinner one hundred years ago, you might be able to unlock her ability to play piano or some other skill. Keep in mind, if the research with the worms pans out and there is a fourteen generation limit, you’re still talking about being able to access the skills of over 8,000 people who are responsible for your existence. That’s a lot of skills available to you.
So, okay, this could account for some of the past lives and other experiences many tend to write off. But what about our immortal souls? The ones we’re supposed to care for in this life to prepare for the next?
At its most basic a soul is considered to be something that lives inside us and then transfers out of us when we die. Science says we got the basics covered.
Jaime Trosper, over at Futurism, explains.
If nothing else can assuage some of the fear of death, the below advice from physicist Aaron Freemen via NPR should do it:
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed.
You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you.
And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.
You see, neither matter nor energy can be destroyed. You, and all your elements, are forever a part of the universe. Just as you are made up of all the parts which came before you, your life adds to the miasma of it all when you pass.
I hope, for now, that’s enough to bring you comfort.
We live, to use the ancient Chinese curse, in interesting times. Ignoring, for a moment, the geo-political shit storm that is roiling across the globe, there are things happening, just below the mainstream radar, that could impact our future in ways we’ve never imagined. Back in October of this year I wrote about how Facebook developed an artificial intelligence, which was designed to learn how to negotiate, and how it, instead, developed its own language, shut out the humans in charge, and did a decent job at its assigned task. That scared the hell out of a lot of people. The understatement masters at Facebook eventually had this to say, “There remains much potential for future work, particularly in exploring other reasoning strategies, and in improving the diversity of utterances without diverging from human language.” Simply put, all this cool shit is meaningless if the robots stop talking to us.
[Read more…] about Body and Mind
While the Internet keeps puking up stuff that is supposed to make you healthy but will, in reality, get you killed, or, at least, not make you any better, there have been some stunning advances in the real world. Granted, they use that magic science stuff and not something cool someone once said their Aunt Sadie swore might work. If you believed and sent $100 to someone somewhere. These remedies, and I use that term incorrectly here, are only slightly less effective than praying for rainbows or sending good vibes via Twitter. Steve Jobs chased a holistic rainbow and died because of it.
Alice G. Walton, over at Forbes, sums it up.
According to Steve Jobs’ biographer, Walter Isaacson, the Apple mastermind eventually came to regret the decision he had made years earlier to reject potentially life-saving surgery in favor of alternative treatments like acupuncture, dietary supplements and juices. Though he ultimately embraced the surgery and sought out cutting-edge experimental methods, they were not enough to save him.
Jobs’ cancer had been discovered by chance during a CT scan in 2003 to look for kidney stones, during which doctors saw a “shadow” on his pancreas. Isaacson told CBS’ 60 Minutes last night that while the news was not good, the upside was that the form of pancreatic cancer from which Jobs suffered (a neuroendocrine islet tumor) was one of the 5% or so that are slow growing and most likely to be cured.
Kids, those doctor people aren’t perfect, no human is, but when faced with something like this you should get a second diagnosis, not skip to Mexico and drink magic juices. Just FYI, the cure rate for what he had, in the stage it was caught, runs around 95%. In other words, had he lived the world would probably have been spared a $1,000 i-Phone that finally is capable of mimicking an Android.
I have previously written about how science is closer to an actual cure for Alzheimer’s, worked out a method so the paralyzed can walk, and heal wounds with an easy to apply polymer that requires no special treatment. You can read about all of those by clicking the link.
And now, since you’ve been kind enough to read this far, I’m going to share some new cures that are headed to a doctor near you.
Let’s start with cancer. Lydia Ramsey, on loan to Science Alert from Business Insider, says that science has discovered a way for patients to, literally, heal themselves with a little help from a medical professional.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved a cutting-edge cancer therapy.
On Wednesday, the FDA approved Novartis’s Kymriah, also known as tisagenlecleucel, a treatment for pediatric acute lymphoblastic lymphoblastic leukemia.
“I think this is most exciting thing I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Dr. Tim Cripe, an oncologist who was part of the FDA advisory committee panel that voted in favour of approving the drug in July.
The highly personalised treatment is called CAR T-cell therapy. It’s a type of cancer immunotherapy — or a therapy that harnesses the body’s immune system to take on cancer cells.
“We’re entering a new frontier in medical innovation with the ability to reprogram a patient’s own cells to attack a deadly cancer,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.
“New technologies such as gene and cell therapies hold out the potential to transform medicine and create an inflection point in our ability to treat and even cure many intractable illnesses. At the FDA, we’re committed to helping expedite the development and review of groundbreaking treatments that have the potential to be life-saving.”
Short for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, CAR-T treatment takes a person’s own cells, removes them from the body, re-engineers them, and then puts the cells back in the body where they can attack cancer cells.
Novartis’ therapy is one of two cutting-edge treatments for blood cancers are poised to get approved by the end of the year.
The FDA is also expected to make a decision about another CAR-T treatment from Kite Pharma, which just got acquired by Gilead Sciences. That’s for Kite’s CAR-T treatment for aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (more general than DLBCL).
In data Kite released in February, the company found that out of the 101 patients, 36 percent had a complete response to the treatment after six months.
It’s a type of cancer that Novartis wants to get approval for in the future.
In June, Novartis released data from its Phase 2 trial of CTL019 in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL for short), an aggressive form of lymphoma that’s one of the two types Kite’s data looks at. The trial found that of the 51 patients with DLBCL, 23 had either a complete response (meaning cancer had disappeared completely) or a partial response (meaning their tumour displayed signs that it was shrinking).
Back in June of 2015 I wrote about how scientists were using stem cells to speed the healing of damaged bone tissue. For example, the kind of damage people suffer when they go through chemo, have muscular dystrophy, have been in a severe accident, and so on. That treatment, which works and is getting more advanced, basically grinds up the bones of random dead people, extracts the varied stem cells, and slams the resulting genetic slurree into a patient via a needle.
Scientists have long known that stem cells are key to human life and healing. Now they are figuring out how to make that knowledge work for you. And those you love.
Right now the treatments listed above for cancer cure run about $300,000 a pop. Everyone is well aware that’s not feasible for the average patient. But, if it can be mass produced, the treatment – not your stem cells, that will bring down the price. They are also looking to the government for subsidies. I’ll keep you posted on that.
One side note, while this is prohibitively expensive, the costs for current drugs can run around $10,000 a month, and some therapies can run upwards of $30,000 per month, not including the additional expenses for the care of the patient. Wiser minds than mine might see the new treatment as cost effective when everything is factored in.
Another thing stem cell treatment has been lauded for is its ability to repair permanently damaged cells. Well, in theory at least. Now, its a fact.
I’ll let Meg Aldrich, over at USC News, tell the story since she does a better job at it than I could.
On March 6, just shy of his 21st birthday, Kristopher (Kris) Boesen of Bakersfield suffered a traumatic injury to his cervical spine when his car fishtailed on a wet road, hit a tree and slammed into a telephone pole.
His parents were warned there was a good chance their son would be permanently paralyzed from the neck down. However, they also learned that he could possibly qualify for a clinical study that might help.
Enter Keck Medical Center of USC, which announced that a team of doctors became the first in California to inject its patient with an experimental treatment made from stem cells as part of a multi-center clinical trial.
Charles Liu, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, led the surgical team, working in collaboration with the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and Keck Medicine of USC, that injected an experimental dose of 10 million AST-OPC1 cells directly into Boesen’s cervical spinal cord in early April.
“Typically, spinal cord injury patients undergo surgery that stabilizes the spine but generally does very little to restore motor or sensory function,” Liu explained. “With this study, we are testing a procedure that may improve neurological function, which could mean the difference between being permanently paralyzed and being able to use one’s arms and hands. Restoring that level of function could significantly improve the daily lives of patients with severe spinal injuries.”
Two weeks after surgery, Boesen began to show signs of improvement. Three months later, he’s able to feed himself, use his cellphone, write his name, operate a motorized wheelchair and hug his friends and family. Improved sensation and movement in both arms and hands also makes it easier for him to care for himself, and to envision a life lived more independently.
“As of 90 days post-treatment, Kris has gained significant improvement in his motor function, up to two spinal cord levels,” Liu said. “In Kris’ case, two spinal cord levels mean the difference between using your hands to brush your teeth, operate a computer or do other things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, so having this level of functional independence cannot be overstated.”
Doctors are careful not to predict Boesen’s future progress.
“All I’ve wanted from the beginning was a fighting chance,” said Boesen, who has a passion for repairing and driving sports cars and was studying to become a life insurance broker at the time of the accident. “But if there’s a chance for me to walk again, then heck yeah! I want to do anything possible to do that.”
There is a lot more to that article and I hope you’ll take the time to click the link and read it all. In the meantime, if you, or someone you know, is interested in partaking in the treatment, here is the info:
To qualify for the clinical trial, enrollees must be between the age of 18 and 69, and their condition must be stable enough to receive an injection of AST-OPC1 between the 14th and 30th days following injury.
Keck Medical Center is one of six sites in the United States that is authorized to enroll subjects and administer the clinical trial dosage.
Just click the Keck Medical Center link to get in touch with them. They will help you find the treatment center closest to you.