The Methuselah Foundation, creators of the Methuselah Mouse Prize, the world’s first scientific prize for longevity research, recently announced that it has secured $500,000 in funding commitments and long-term funding from an anonymous donor.
The Methuselah Mouse Prize is being offered to research teams that develop the longest-living Mus musculus (house mouse), the breed most commonly used in scientific research. Scientists consider this a critical precursor to the development of human anti-aging therapies. Six teams around the world are currently competing for the prize, a number expected to rise because of this new funding.
The funding commitment by an anonymous supporter was made in the name of the X PRIZE Foundation, which successfully encouraged the development of private-passenger space travel in 2004.
“The X PRIZE and the Meth-uselah Mouse prize can dramatically increase competition and innovation, and create interest for the public,” said Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, founder and executive producer of the X PRIZE. “With this contribution, we’re signaling our belief that prizes can not only take us into space, but help bring about breakthroughs in the way we live and age.”
“This landmark contribution will further swell the size of the prize, and encourage scientific research teams around the world to develop breakthrough techniques for extending the healthy human life span,” said David Gobel, director of the Methuselah Foundation. “It will create a needed impetus and focus for the development of new rejuvenation therapies.”
According to Dr. Aubrey de Grey, the Methuselah Found-ation’s chief science officer, “The focus of the Methuselah Found-ation is not simply extending human life; it is discovering ways to limit and eventually eliminate the destructive effects of human aging, promoting not only longer life but freedom from the effects of aging-related conditions and diseases.”
In a recent study, Spanish re-searchers report that regular consumption of walnuts can markedly improve cardiovascular health.
Research amply demonstrates that regular nut consumption may decrease the risk of heart disease by up to 50%. Traditional Mediterranean and Asian diets that are rich in nuts are associated with comparatively low rates of cardiovascular disease and mortality.
In their study published in the journal Circulation,* researchers in Barcelona, Spain, reported additional benefits of substituting walnuts for monounsaturated fatty acids in the Mediterranean diet. Twenty-one men and women with hypercholesterolemia were enrolled in a randomized crossover study in which approximately one-third of their monounsaturated fat-derived calories were substituted with walnuts (amounting to 8-13 walnuts per day). About half of the subjects ate a diet without walnuts for four weeks and then ate one with walnuts for four weeks, and vice versa.
After completing each four-week diet, the subjects underwent ultrasound testing of the arm’s brachial artery to assess endothelium-dependent vasodilation, a marker of endothelial dysfunction. When walnuts were part of the diet, endothelium-dependent vasodilation increased by 64%, consistent with marked improvement in cardiovascular health. The re-searchers also confirmed that the walnut substitution decreased levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which are known to contribute to endothelial dysfunction.
According to the researchers, the cardioprotective properties of walnuts cannot be explained by their favorable impact on cholesterol profile alone. Because walnuts contain arginine, folic acid, fiber, and gamma-tocopherol, their cardioprotective effects may include: increased nitric oxide formation from arginine, improving vascular reactivity and inhibiting platelet aggregation; a reduction in LDL oxidation due to the presence of vitamin E and other antioxidants; and a decrease in homocysteine levels with folate.
Eaten daily in moderation, walnuts do not cause weight gain, but significantly reduce one’s risk for heart disease.
—Linda M. Smith, RN
* Ros E, Nunez I, Perez-Heras A, et al. A walnut diet improves endothelial function in hypercholesterolemic subjects: a randomized crossover trial. Circulation. 2004 Apr 6;109(13):1609-14.
The Immortality Institute, a non-profit membership organization whose mission is to “conquer the blight of involuntary death,” is promoting the cause of life extension with a new book and a forthcoming documentary film.
The Institute’s new book, The Scientific Conquest of Death: Essays on Infinite Lifespans, is divided into two parts: science and perspectives. The science half of the book includes essays by scientists such as Aubrey de Grey, Michael West, Robert Freitas, Ray Kurzweil, and Marvin Minsky. Although the authors work in different fields, they share a vision of a future where degenerative aging is a choice. Whereas the authors of the science section outline potential paths to the goal, the perspective authors ask whether the goal is worthy, tackling philosophical issues such as whether humans will be plagued by overpopulation or lethargy if death is removed from the picture.
The Immortality Institute is also producing a documentary film entitled “Exploring Life Extension.” According to Institute chair and filmmaker Bruce J. Klein, the goal of the film project is to produce and distribute a film that conveys a realistic impression of the scientific pursuit of healthy life extension. Scheduled for release in 2005, the film will feature interviews with contributors to The Scientific Conquest of Death and others who are working to advance the life extension movement. The Life Extension Foundation recently contributed $5,000 to the film project.
Klein and other members of the Immortality Institute met near Hartford, CT, on December 4 to discuss the Institute’s book, film project, and ways to bring the life extension message to a broader audience.
For more information on the Immortality Institute, please visit www.imminst.org.