Telomere maintenance – We who are about to die Salute You

centurionIn my most recent blog, The Monster is Not Born Immortal, I discussed in real time the results of Dr Maria Blasco’s most recent paper using both telomerase over expression and Calorie Restriction.

As usual, I got a bevy of comments, many of which were nasty grams and did not get published for that reason, on the blog.

People do not like to see their belief systems attacked.

The one that has come into question most recently, is based on the statement: “The only robust way to extend mammalian longevity is calorie restriction”!

Based on the recent monkey fiasco and Dr Blasco’s findings that her calorie restricted mice did NOT live longer, I think that phrase needs to be changed to:

“The only way to robustly extend mammalian lifespan is telomerase over expression!”

I honestly think Dr Blasco’s achievements in the past year warrant a Nobel Prize.

1)  She successfully extended mammalian (mouse) lifespan with the AAV 9 virus and did not increase cancer incidence.

2)  She showed how mice actually do age like people based on her assay (Life Length, following the percentage of short telomeres.

3)  She showed how telomerase over expression is probably the main, if not the only key to true life extension in mammals.

Now, let’s talk briefly about calorie restriction (CR). There are approximately 10,000 people who follow the discipline worldwide, at least to some degree.  When these people die, we should salute them since they have carried on what must be the first true human longevity experiment. That is, assuming they do not believe any of the most recent findings that point away from CR as a valid life extension method.

In the meantime, what about all the darlings of science: mTor, Foxo, sirtuins?  More and more it looks like these are “healthspan pathways” that have the most effect when someone, or more specifically some animal, is sick or stressed.  Remember CR may be its own stress, but ultimately, even though animals who are CR’d do not live longer, they do seem to be healthier up to the point when they die.

Does this work in people?  Preliminary findings suggest that in heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and other types of similar age-related diseases, CR does indeed improve outcomes.  It also seems to help Alzheimer’s and we wonder… Cancer?

Here is where the problems start to come in.  By the time you have cancer, you might also be protein calorie malnourished and CR might worsen everything. There are studies that do show it increases mortality and morbidity in some animals. And by the way, if you want to look at a free living population of protein calorie malnourished people, try the elderly.

They seem to get sick and die at a higher rate than the rest of us! So we may find that CR ultimately shortens human lifespan in non-obese populations, echoing my title for this blog.

And while I am at it, I may as well talk about resveratrol, another darling that has lost its shimmer.  Recent studies show resveratrol does not even work through the primary sirtuin system and even if it did, that system is not a longevity pathway in people. It’s an energy management pathway.

As I have said before, it’s a decent antioxidant if you want to take it but do not look to it as a longevity drug!

Over the years, I have voiced all these opinions before and taken a lot of abuse because of my stance.

But, I really don’t care because I am not going to do anything that is not well researched and reasonably proven, and I am not going to stake my health and longevity on it either.

What about TA-65; is it a longevity drug?

Again, the abuse flows both from people who do not believe in longevity as a concept and from others who claim to have a telomerase activator of their own.

My stance remains the same:

If you want to age and die prematurely that is your choice, please proceed by all means!

TA-65 is the only telomerase activator currently available that has ANY human data and more is on the way. Since it’s not a drug, we can’t call it a longevity drug.

But, we could call it a longevity compound since it mimics many of the effects of telomerase over expression by virus or genetic manipulation, including immune boosting, bone mass improvements, anti-inflammatory effects, skin aging decrease or reversal and many metabolic turnarounds.

Since this is my passion and my profession, I want to do everything that makes sense to improve my chances, while we hash out what else is super important in this quest for a better life with better health!

We may yet find that CR makes sense for some group of sick people wanting those things, but we know TA-65 already does.


P.S. We do owe a debt of gratitude to the CR folks since they are actually trying to find an answer and are willing to sacrifice their lives and some considerable enjoyment of same to get that answer.  I sincerely hope the CR society approaches Life Length to do short telomere testing, since it may provide them with an answer that doesn’t require them to die first!

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