European Biogerontology Conference In Beer-Sheva, IsraelMay 2014
By Ben Best
Cytomegalovirus Is Not Harmless
Graham Pawelec, PhD (Professor, University of Tubingen, Tubingen, Germany) specializes in aging of the immune system due to cytomegalovirus (CMV). CMV can be a life-threatening virus even for those with a healthy immune system.47 Like herpes simplex virus, CMV is usually inactive in infected persons, but is never eliminated by the immune system. Unlike herpes simplex, however, a substantial portion of the immune system is involved in controlling CMV, which drains the resources of the immune system.48,49 Dr. Pawelec noted that death rates in people as a result of cancer and cardiovascular disease cease accelerating by age 75-80, but death rates from infectious diseases continue to accelerate with age indefinitely.50 Persons with the highest levels of CMV antibodies have a much higher risk of death from all causes than persons with few or no antibodies.51,52 CMV is pro-inflammatory, which helps to explain its contribution to immunosenescence and potential relationship with other pathologies.53,54 CMV prevalence increases with age, leveling off at about 85-90% of the population being infected by age 75-80.55 Dr. Pawelec’s team has found that a lower responsiveness to vaccination is associated with CMV infection.56 His team has also found that families having longevity genes have lower levels of CMV-associated alterations in immune function.57 Efforts to develop a vaccine against CMV have not yet been successful.58,59 CMV is transmitted through body fluids such as blood, urine, saliva, vaginal secretions, and semen. Infants are often newly infected, and therefore infectious. Infant caregivers should wash themselves thoroughly with soap and water after changing diapers, feeding, or handling toys. The drug valganciclovir can eradicate active CMV infection.60
Life Extension Contributions To Modern Medicine
Ilia Stambler, PhD (Researcher, Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv, Israel) is a historian of life-extension science.61 The theme of his presentation was that many modern medical therapies had their origin in the efforts of early scientists to find methods of rejuvenation or life extension. Modern hormone replacement therapy originated from 19th century efforts to rejuvenate men using testicular extracts from animals. Similarly, some of the first transplantation operations were attempts at rejuvenation by transplantation of sex glands. Nobel Prize winning researcher Alexis Carrel fostered the idea that cells are immortal in cell culture. Although his techniques proved to be flawed, Carrel was an important contributor to the practice of culturing cells in a growth medium. The first academic institution devoted to blood transfusion was founded in 1925 by a Russian physician who was seeking rejuvenation. Dr. Stambler credits Alexander Bogomolets, a Soviet-era President of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, with the use of adjuvants (added components) to potentiate the immune response of the body. Dr. Bogomolets was an ardent life extension proponent. In 1938 Bogomolets organized the first publicized gerontological conference, and he also published his book The Prolongation of Life.
Conference Coverage In The Israeli Media
Dr. Stambler is himself an enthusiastic life extensionist. He was on the organizing committee of this conference. His promotion of the conference in Israeli television and newspapers emphasized the possibilities of life extension. He estimates that these media exposures reached nearly a fifth of the population of Israel.
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