Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Telomerase: A cure for aging?

Like it or not, life expectancy is going to increase. We are poised to witness a biomedical revolution in which aging is seen as a disease, and not a necessary natural process.

The latest research in this quest for a fountain of youth has demonstrated that it is possible to reverse aging in mice by feeding them a chemical called 4-OHT, thus ramping up the activity of a naturally-occuring enzyme called telomerase, whose function is to repair the broken DNA sequences called telomeres that cap the ends of chromosomes. Every time a cell divides, those telomeres get shorter, so in a sense, the number of times that a cell can divide is limited, but telomerase can lengthen the shortened telomeres, and prolong the cell's life.

In the study, the organs of the mice damaged by aging were regenerated to a youthful state, including the brain.

The only caveat that needs to overcome: telomerase seems encourage the growth of tumors. For some it's a deal breaker, but for others, such as Ronald DePinho (a cancer geneticist) and David Sinclair (a molecular biologist),  telomerase would actually prevent cancer in the first place by protecting DNA from damage.

Granted, repairing broken telomeres would not be a perfect cure for aging, as short telomeres is not the only cause, but combined with other therapies,  it would become part of a wonderful medical arsenal against this deadly condition.


Now, I know, I can hear some of you yelling 'But what about overpopulation?". Well, that's an entirely separate question,

The fact that this game-changing research could potentially make overpopulation worse, should not be used as an excuse not to pursue a cure for aging. Besides, with aging cured, the need to procreate and ensure the continuation of the species is not as dramatic. Overpopulation is easy to fix. Aging is not. But aging is the more important problem to fix in the short term. We can't ignore the real, immediate problems we have today because we don't want to deal with future hypothetical problems. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Belated Veteran's Day

I've been very busy in the real world, with very little spare time left to even be able to turn on my home PC (which takes a whole 25 minutes to boot, and I'm not that patient) but I wanted to express my continuing gratitude to all veterans, dead or alive, who do a hard and dangerous job that I'm not brave enough to do myself.

However, I still fail to see how the current engagement in Afghanistan is strategically justified. I actually see it as an insulting mis-use of our military and as a breach of the trust that servicemen and women have placed in our democracy. We cannot send them to their deaths without a valid reason. It is an enormous responsibility on the part of the voting citizen. Remember; the 9/11 attacks were planned in Europe and in the US, not in Afghanistan. Not a single hijacker was of Afghan origin. The fact that they received training in Afghanistan is a distraction. They could just as easily have received this training over the Internet. What was that terrorist training anyway, calisthenics on monkey bars in the desert? (Remember that grainy Al Qaeda 'recruiting video' that played on TV a hundred times?)

Afghanistan is a landlocked country with few resources. The Taliban have no air force and no navy. Why do we need thousands of soldiers risking their lives over there? If you love your veterans, you will demand that your government bring them home to their families. Too many of them will have to spend the holidays far from home.

Granted, I am not privy to the daily national security briefings that the President receives, and perhaps he knows something I don't, but with the information that I do have, I don't see enough of a benefit in this war to justify keeping troops in Afghanistan any longer.

If we do have valid strategic objectives to fulfill in that remote country, let's use drones and robots, and let's stop risking the lives of our bravest and finest. Never send a man to do a robot's job. Support the troops: Bring them home!

TSA: Traveler Sexual Assailants

People are all up in arms about intrusive security procedures at airports that involve naked body imaging (voyeuristic pornography) and 'enhanced' patdowns (molestation). And apparently, according to TSA, it's OK when the government does it.

I can see why travelers are upset. TSA is looking for terrorists, and apparently they assume we all are. (Trains and subways are just as vulnerable, so why not take naked pictures of you on your way to work as well?)

However, let's get real. No one wants to see naked pictures of your ugly fat body anyway. That's right, you're not as hot as you make yourselves believe, so chill, OK? Most of you aren't perfect tens (or sevens for that matter), so I wouldn't be too worried that some TSA pervert in a back room is going to be jacking off over your overweight potato physique. I don't think anyone at TSA enjoys looking at belly fat and saggy breasts all day. Sounds like a miserable assignment.

As far as I'm concerned, I am not ashamed of my fit and muscular body, I say let the whole world see it and be jealous of my dedication to athleticism and combat sports.

But don't F*cking touch my junk because you'll be needing arthroscopic shoulder surgery to re-attach your infraspinatus tendon, you, bureaucratic weakling.