The Life Extension FoundationMay 2007
By Dave Tuttle
Life Extension Magazine
By Dave Tuttle
Speeding Drug Development to Extend Life
Life Extension is also funding research into the cryopreservation of animal tissue to permit faster drug discovery and development. Drug companies always conduct tissue tests to determine the effects of drugs before they begin animal testing. Currently, companies have to kill a new research animal every day to get fresh tissue for these experiments. Soon, they will be able to use vitrified tissues instead. This will reduce the use of research animals while increasing the supply of available animal tissue, so that more drugs can be screened faster. 21st Century Medicine is in co-development projects with several pharmaceutical companies to offer slices of kidneys, brains, and livers for drug development.
“This research is directly related to life extension,” says 21st Century Medicine’s Barry. “I can’t thank Life Extension enough for funding these efforts. It would have been difficult—if not impossible—to pursue these research goals without them. The transplant market is not big enough monetarily to attract investors into cryopreservation research. Since Life Extension cares about longevity—not profits—they are willing to assist us. Only a foundation with the vision to see how this research will extend life would step forward and fund us.”
Reviving Disease and Accident Victims
The Life Extension Foundation has also funded studies of resuscitation, helping to develop procedures that will allow for the revival of traumatized, near-death victims of disease or accidents.
“There has been little support from traditional sources for this research,” says Dr. Steve Harris, director of research for Critical Care Research, also based in California. “Most people don’t think they will ever need it, and when they do, they are unconscious. Much brain damage could be stopped if these procedures were used to a greater extent.”
Two series of experiments highlight the company’s research focus. In one, scientists cooled dogs using a perfluorocarbon solution. Because this fluid is capable of conducting both heat and cold, as well as carrying oxygen and removing carbon dioxide, it can be used to fill an anesthetized dog’s lungs, cooling the animal by a half-degree Celsius per minute. This experiment demonstrated that the animals could be cooled more rapidly than ever before, without the use of cardiopulmonary bypass, and without the animals experiencing pain. Because cold slows down the degeneration process, it offers hope that humans can one day be maintained in hypothermic stasis until the body can be delivered to a medical facility staffed to save the individual.
In another line of experimentation, scientists were able to revive dogs that had been in cardiac arrest with no blood pressure for more than 14 minutes. The dogs—which were given a drug cocktail including heparin to prevent brain damage—were resuscitated by a defibrillator, and then put on a ventilator. It took up to 60 minutes for them to start breathing on their own. The dogs survived the ordeal with no apparent harm, despite the fact that they were in cardiac arrest so long that most conventional doctors would have considered resuscitation to be impossible.
“All of these studies were financed entirely by the Life Extension Foundation,” says Dr. Harris. “We are very grateful for the funding, which a drug company would never have even considered doing. Life Extension supports cutting-edge research that needs to be done, but that no one else is doing.”
Making Chemotherapy Less Toxic
The Life Extension Foundation also funds more traditional research that could lead to less harmful ways to treat cancer.
A Phase I study was recently completed, comparing various dosages of two chemotherapy drugs that are often administered together. This study showed that the best compromise between response and toxicity occurred when 2000 mg of gemcitabine (Gemzar®) per square meter of body mass (m2) was alternated on a weekly basis with 50 mg/m2 of docetaxel (Taxotere®). A Phase II follow-up study on the effects of these two drugs on women with Stage IV breast cancer was recently begun at the Cancer Treatment Center of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. Under the direction of lead investigator D. Richard Ishmael, MD, this study will alternate the two drugs on a weekly basis for six weeks, with a one-week break. The regimen will then be repeated every eight weeks until the study’s conclusion.
“We started the study in February 2007,” notes Orn Adalsteinsson, PhD, president and CEO of the International Cancer Alliance, who is coordinating the study’s implementation. “Depending on how quickly we can sign up 25 people who meet the rigorous qualification criteria, we expect to be completed in a year to a year and a half. The researchers hope to reduce the side effects of the gemcitabine and docetaxel combination, while maintaining and hopefully maximizing the efficacy of the drugs. The findings of the Phase I study were very positive, and we expect that the Phase II study will confirm these findings. We are grateful for the assistance of the Life Extension Foundation, which is totally funding this study.”
Staying on the Cutting Edge
The Life Extension Foundation seeks out research projects that will help to make a difference in optimizing health and extending life span. Rather than funding “copycat” studies that break no new ground, the Foundation explores the frontiers of scientific research. Whether it is determining how caloric restriction enhances longevity at the genetic level, or helping ensure that organ transplants will be available on demand, the Foundation follows an independent path, leading the way in innovative research. Behind these efforts is a fundamental goal: to push the limits of research in a way that will one day make radical life extension a reality.
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