Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: May 1997

The Foundations Life Extension Research Budget

The Life Extension Foundation has committed more than $1.3 million to find practical answers to extending lifespan, rejuvenation, suspended animation and better health. Here's a thorough overview of those efforts, and where the money is going.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, on January 2021.


The Life Extension Foundation has embarked on the most ambitious research project in history. We're aiming to conquer aging and death by the year 2020, and we've begun to fund ground-breaking research programs to help achieve these goals.

Most people don't understand how money earmarked for scientific research is used. They have no idea of the many costly items required to conduct ground-breaking research. We're going to tell you how our research funding is being used, but first you need to understand why we have to fund life extension research in the first place.

Billions of tax dollars go to support medical research every year, but much of this money is either squandered by bureaucrats or spent on research to support the status quo. None of it is spent to extend the human lifespan. Scientists funded by The Life Extension Foundation, on the other hand, are motivated by the personal desire to achieve an extended, healthy lifespan for themselves! As a result, they often work 100-hour weeks and more, with intensity and dedication.

Whenever a Foundation member buys a product from the Life Extension Buyers Club, he or she contributes to highly cost-effective life extension research programs. In order to enlighten you about the programs currently being funded by your product purchases, we have outlined the research we are funding as of January 1997.

The Lifespan Project

Image The purpose of this project is to determine the effects of nutrients, hormones and drugs used by life extensionists today on mean and maximum lifespan and aging in adult mice. In order to do so, we're providing gifts with no strings attached to scientists already engaged in interventive gerontological research. The initial scientists we have given financial assistance to are Richard Weindruch, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and Stephen R. Spindler, Ph.D., of the University of California at Riverside. Some of the studies that Weindruch and Spindler are devising will test single agents; others will test a combination of agents. There are reasons to believe that these agents may slow aging and extend lifespan. The studies will help to determine if any of them actually do so.

The Lifespan Project is the first large-scale, coordinated program designed to investigate the effects of promising dietary agents on aging and lifespan. Among the agents chosen by Weindruch and Spindler for the initial studies are:

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine
  • Aminoguanidine
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Lycopene
  • Melatonin
  • NADH
  • Procysteine
  • Pregnenolone
T hese agents have been chosen to test four theories about the causes of aging that have been advocated by prominent gerontologists: That aging is caused by free radical activity, hormone depletion, energy reduction, and glycosylation. The full rationale and protocols for our lifespan studies will be explained by Drs. Weindruch and Spindler in an upcoming issue of Life Extension magazine.

Dr. Weindruch is Professor of Medicine (Section of Geriatrics and Gerontology) and a research scientist at the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) at the William S. Middleton Veterans' Hospital.

Dr. Weindruch has devoted his entire 20-year research career to the biology of aging. He holds a Ph.D. in Experimental Pathology from UCLA. His doctoral work was conducted under the supervision of Dr. Roy Walford, with whom he collaborated on many studies. Currently, Dr. Weindruch is also Associate Director of the University of Wisconsin's Institute on Aging; Chairman of the Aging Research Group at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center; and Chairman of the National Institutes of Health's Geriatrics and Rehabilitative Medicine Study Section.

Dr. Weindruch is an authority on the effects of calorie restriction on aging and lifespan. He has conducted many lifespan studies in rodents, and is currently doing the same in rhesus monkeys. His laboratory is investigating the possibility that calorie restriction retards the aging process by reducing the rate of accumulation of free radical damage to cells.

Dr. Weindruch is widely published in the scientific literature. He has authored two books, 55 peer-reviewed research reports and 40 review articles. In 1988, Drs. Weindruch and Walford published an important book aimed at the scientific community entitled "The Retardation of Aging and Diseases by Dietary Restriction."

The facilities where Dr. Weindruch will be conducting the lifespan studies are located at the GRECC. They are truly outstanding. There are two types of facilities, one to house rats and mice, and the other to conduct experiments on tissues derived from these animals.

The Shared Aging Rodent Facility houses rats and mice on a long-term basis. It is a 2,900- square-foot facility with a clean/dirty corridor system and cage-level barriers for the long-term maintenance of aging rats and mice in a pathogen-free environment.

The GRECC became fully operational in January, with a recently constructed 6,000-square-foot space designed and equipped to carry out a variety of molecular, biochemical, histologic and immunologic analyses.

After we sent Dr. Weindruch funding, we asked him to inform us how The Foundation's money would be spent for the lifespan studies he will be conducting at the University of Wisconsin. See the breakdown (Table 1, below) of the current and anticipated costs of conducting lifespan research at his facility.

Additional lifespan studies will be conducted at the University of California at Riverside by Stephen R. Spindler, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry. Dr. Spindler is a molecular biologist with a keen interest in life-extension research.

Dr. Spindler earned his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences with a major in Biochemistry in 1976 from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in Houston, where he was a National Institutes of Health-Public Health Service Predoctoral Fellow. In 1981, after postdoctoral positions in the Department of Biochemistry at Colorado State University, and the Endocrine Research Division of the University of California at San Francisco, he joined the faculty of the University of California at Riverside.

Dr. Spindler has published more than 50 scientific papers. He has served as a member of the Physiological Sciences Study Section of the National Institutes of Health (1992-1995), and has been a member of many other scientific review panels of NIH.

Dr. Spindler is an authority on the molecular basis for steroid-thyroid-retinoid-vitamin D hormone action. For the past 12 years, he has been investigating the molecular-genetic mechanisms determining lifespan. His research has been especially concerned with the relationship between nutrition and lifespan.

At the University of California Riverside campus, the animal colony for the lifespan studies will be maintained in the Biochemistry Department's Boyce Hall vivarium, an AALAC-certified, 3,000-square-foot facility located on the floor immediately above Dr. Spindler's laboratory. There, the mice will be maintained in a pathogen-free environment and looked after by the facility's veterinarian as well as a highly trained professional staff of animal-care technicians.

Dr. Spindler's laboratory of approximately 3,000 square feet contains equipment for research into recombinant DNA, protein purification, cell and tissue purification and analysis at the molecular level, including sterile bio-containment facilities, incubators, microscopes, centrifuges, DNA sequencing apparatus, electrophoresis apparatus, imaging systems and other equipment. Dr. Spindler also provided us with a breakdown of the current and anticipated costs of conducting lifespan research at his facility .

While both Dr. Weindruch and Dr. Spindler are receiving funding from The Foundation for research expenses, they are volunteering their time in their search for evidence that today's dietary supplements can slow aging and extend lifespan. They are doing so because of their personal interest in life extension research, and because they consider it to be of great importance to humanity.

Another scientist volunteering his time to contribute to The Lifespan Project is Dr. Steven B. Harris, M.D., a physician now practicing medicine in Salt Lake City, UT, who has conducted lifespan studies at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The Lifespan Project is the first multistudy lifespan program ever conducted. It also is the first series of lifespan studies which focus entirely on nutrients, hormones and drugs in common use today. The initial studies we are funding are just the beginning of the project. As it grows in size and scope, we (and others) expect to be donating money to other scientists at other institutions. Future studies will be based upon the findings of our initial studies and the results of studies conducted at other laboratories. The Lifespan Project will continue until we find agents, or combinations of agents and regimens, that can demonstrably slow aging and extend lifespan, both in laboratory animals and in humans.


The 21st Century Medicine Facility

21st Century Medicine is a research and development company that owns a 7,500-square-foot facility in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, containing laboratories devoted to life extension research. The Foundation has been funding several ground-breaking research projects at 21st Century, including the initial studies of The Rejuvenation Project and The Suspended Animation Project. Because much of the equipment is used at 21st Century for more than one research project, we've included a single list of research expenditures for January 1997 and anticipated costs for later in the year. Before we list these expenditures, let's take a closer look at the 21st Century Medicine facility and some of research being conducted there.

The 7,500-square-foot 21st Century building teems with millions of dollars worth of scientific and medical equipment. It features an operating room for large-animal research that includes heart-lung machines, heat-exchange devices, an X-ray machine and on-line, automated monitoring equipment. The founders of the 21st Century facility used their life savings to purchase much of this highly-sophisticated equipment at auctions and from private dealers.

Since 1993, The Life Extension Foundation and some of its members have contributed more than $1 million for additional equipment purchases, salaries, and research at the 21st Century facility. The staff has been working very long hours for very little pay because of their dedication to life extension research. The result is highly cost-effective research that cannot be matched in dollar value at other institutions.

To accelerate the volume and pace of 21st Century Medicine's research, the company expects to be adding at least three new, full-time scientists to the staff in 1997. The combined compensation for these three scientists will be about $125,000 a year, with considerable additional expenditures for equipment and supplies needed to support their research efforts. One of these new staff members will be a cardiovascular surgeon with advanced computer skills. We will be introducing you to the staff of 21st Century later in the year when the entire team has been assembled.

Added electrical capacity to facility $ 2,000
Labor and parts for electrical hookups $ 1,000
(All available electrical panel space has been used up on the main bus (the BIG) power panel which supplies power to the entire building. The use of multiple pieces of analytical equipment, low temperature coolers and freezers is the proximate cause of this. The building was originally outfitted for light office and warehouse space, not as a laboratory.)
Heat exchanger for FC perfusion unit $ 1,500
(This item is the main heat exchanger in the fluorocarbon perfusion unit that is being built to vitrify entire animals. The heat exchanger can remove in excess of 20 degrees C per minute from an 80 kg animal.)
Bulkhead and reach-through for Cold Room $ 2,000
(The minus-30 degree C operating room will, obviously, be very cold. There will be no breathable air in the room once the perfusion is underway. Staff time in the room will be minimized by building a see-through thermopane bulkhead on the warm side of which staff and computers can sit. Reach-throughs will be provided to allow access to equipment on the cold side.)
Spectrophotometer $ 2,000
(This is necessary for tissue viability studies, clinical chemistries to determine cryoprotective agent purity, and to determine free hemoglobin released during RBC freezing/vitrification studies.)
Ramp to Cold Room $ 600
(Needed to wheel equipment, animals and patients in and out. It includes related handling hardware which is not listed separately.)
Cold Room pump control extensions $ 400
(The controls on the heart-lung machine used to carry out cryoprotective perfusion in large animals have to be moved off the front of the heart-lung machine and externalized through the bulkhead in the Cold Room.)
Flame photometer and supplies $ 6,000
(This is the core piece of equipment required to do cryoprotectant tissue slice viability assessments. It measures the amount of sodium and potassium in tissues, their bathing medium to very tight specifications.)
Custom slice incubating chamber $ 1,800
(This is an acrylic device used to house, load/unload and incubate tissue slices in cryoprotectants and for viability evaluation.)
McIlwain tissue chopper $ 2,000
(This is the least expensive, and also one of the best, devices for producing viable brain slices.)
Shaker bath $ 2,000
(Slices must be incubated at a controlled, warm temperature after exposure to cryoprotectants. In order to oxygenate and nourish the slices they must be shaken during this period.)
Misc. supplies for slice studies $ 3,000
(Disposable supplies including pipettes, plastic ware, to support the slice work.)
Automatic watering system $ 500
(There is already $10,000 worth of automatic watering equipment on the animal cages, but we need a step-down pressure regulator or the plumbing and hook-ups required to use it.)
Rodent flooring $ 1,800
The new 400-square-foot rodent vivarium can now completed for long-term [lifespan] studies.)
Rat study expenses $ 3,000
(Including the diagnosis of disease in some of the sentinel animals who became ill. All the adults are still OK.
Dishwasher $ 600
(This will eliminate 8-10 hours spent each week by the staff washing cages and vivarium hardware in cold water using expensive germicides.)
Air curtain for rodent rooms $ 500
In-line UV for rodent room $ 300
Fluorocarbon for 1996 $ 2,000
(An outstanding bill for work done to determine the feasibility of sub-zero fluorocarbon perfusion)
Additional FC for liquid vent studies $ 1,000
(For liquid ventilation studies to optimize its use in cooling patients in emergency medicine.)
Recirculation pump for FC perfusion unit $ 700
(The large FC cooling unit needs this to pump the fluorocarbon through the heat exchanger.)
New BioMedicus Cannulae $ 1,200
(For ongoing dog survival studies.)
Replace obsolete O2 concentration meters $ 700
(The mercury battery-powered units have been traded in for new 9V units using a manufacturer's exchange program at 50% off new cost.)
Facility truck (used) $ 6,000
Fume hood $ 2,000
(To protect staff against toxic solvents.)
Additional rat cages $ 2,000
Backlogged supplies needed $ 1,000
Research and overhead expenses $ 20,400
Total amount contributed by The Life Extension Foundation to 21st Century Medicine in January 1997 $ 68,000

The Rejuvenation Project

The Rejuvenation Project will investigate the ability of nutrients, drugs, hormones, and other experimental regimens to reverse aging and extend maximum lifespan in old mice and rats. The animals used in these studies will be equivalent in age to humans in their 60s and 70s. By using animals of advanced ages, we will be searching for solutions to the weakness, debilitation, mental decline, and greater susceptibility to killer diseases that people have in the late stages of their lives.

The Rejuvenation Project is the first research program to seek basic underlying answers for the deficits and disabilities of the elderly. Success in developing effective rejuvenation therapies will not only improve the quality of life for older people, but also will reduce the medical costs borne by society as the largest population cohort in history-the Baby-Boom generation-moves closer to old age.

The first study in The Rejuvenation Project was started in the fall of 1996. It involves injections of genetically identical fetal stem cells into aging 344-Fisher rats. A full description of the rationale and protocol for this study will be carried in Life Extension magazine in the near future. This study is being conducted at the 21st Century Medicine facility by Mike Darwin and Steven B. Harris, M.D.

Future rejuvenation studies will be conducted at a number of facilities by eminent interventive gerontologists. Among the studies scheduled to begin in 1997 are growth-hormone injections in aged mice, based upon the findings of a study at the University of North Dakota in which there was a major reduction in mortality in mice receiving growth-hormone injections compared to mice receiving saline injections. The scientists conducting this study did not permit the animals to live out the rest of their natural lifespans. In our study, we will follow all the animals to the end of their lives.

The other rejuvenation study will be an attempt to repeat a provocative finding reported by physician Max Odens in the journal Nature in the 1960s. Odens claimed that he had achieved dramatic lengthening of the maximum lifespan of rats which were given injections of RNA and DNA. When this study was published, it was not taken serious by gerontologists because of the small number of animals used, the scant details given in the paper and the extraordinary results claimed by Odens. We will attempt to see if there is any validity to the claims Odens made in Nature.

Detailed reports and protocols on both these studies will be carried in Life Extension magazine later in the year.

The Suspended Animation Project

This project aims to perfect full-body suspended animation by the year 2020. Perfected suspended animation would permit reversible cryopreservation of terminal patients for transport into the future for advanced medical treatment. The current practice of cryonics has the same objectives, but cannot cryopreserve patients without inflicting severe damage from ischemia (reduced blood flow) and unperfected freezing methods. Suspended animation would guarantee the ability to apply the advances of future medicine to today's "terminal" patients.

Another important use of suspended animation will be for explorers and travelers taking trips to other star systems. Such trips could last hundreds and even thousands of years as we probe into the outer reaches of the Milky Way and eventually travel to other galaxies. Trips of such length will require lengthy periods of suspended animation-even for those who are physically immortal.

Several programs in the Suspended Animation Project are underway at the 21st Century Medicine facility. Here are short descriptions of these programs:

Hypothermia Program

21st Century Medicine is developing methods to cool and store whole organisms near the freezing point of water (0-2 degrees C) in the absence of blood circulation and breathing. Currently, the maximum time a human can be kept safely in circulatory arrest at reduced temperatures is about 45 minutes. This does not allow for complex surgical procedures requiring circulatory arrest to be carried out. It also does not allow for rapid stabilization of trauma victims so they can be transported to the hospital in a state of reduced metabolism.

A good example of how this kind of "buying time" approach could be used would be when a soldier is badly injured on the battlefield. If blood washout coupled with deep cooling were available and the soldier could be held at near 0 degrees C for 12 to 24 hours without injury, it would be possible to transport him to a hospital.

21st Century Medicine is unraveling the biochemistry of hypothermic and cold ischemic injury. We are making major strides in learning how to increase the efficiency of reduced metabolism during profound hypothermia, and to inhibit the cascade of immune-inflammatory mediated injury that occurs when the animal (or human patient) is rewarmed and normal metabolism is restored. 21st Century has restored dogs to healthy, normal lives after replacing their blood with a patented chemical formula, lowering their body temperature to near freezing, and maintaining them in this condition for up to 5½ hours.

Brain Resuscitation Program

At 21st Century Medicine, we have learned that basic cascades of injury and decompensation occur in both the hypothermic ischemic animal and the normothermic ischemic animal (the latter is best exemplified by the patient who has suffered extended cardiac arrest from a heart attack or drowning). We have made enormous strides in understanding why brains fail after resuscitation, and why they are so vulnerable to short periods without blood flow at normal body temperature. Over the past three years, we have defined what we believe to be the key pathophysiological processes in brain ischemia and the "reperfusion" injury that occurs after blood flow is restored.

21st Century has access to a virtual cornucopia of new drugs with enormous promise for the treatment of cerebral ischemia, shock and multisystem organ failure. A number of these drugs represents entirely new classes of therapeutic agents acting on metabolic pathways only recently elucidated by the use of transgenic "knockout" mice. We are rapidly developing pharmacological approaches to brain injury resulting from 15 to 20 minutes of cardiac arrest. These drugs also may prove effective in reversing the ischemic damage that characterizes chronic brain diseases and aging.

Brain Cryopreservation Program

A major problem in organ cryopreservation research is that the drugs that scientists use to prevent freezing damage are not very permeable to cells, especially myelinated (white matter) nerve cells. In addition, most conventional cryoprotective drugs are fairly toxic and fail to prevent ice from forming in concentrations compatible with survival of complex organs and organisms. Another problem is how to cool a mass of tissue as big as a human brain or body, uniformly and rapidly. 21st Century Medicine has filed a patent for an entirely new class of cryoprotective drugs with lower toxicity and greater permeability than conventional cryoprotectants. A second patent deals with a newly developed technology for rapid and uniform cooling and rewarming of large tissue masses. Dogs have been cooled to minus 100 degrees C, and then rewarmed, both at an average rate of nearly 10 degrees C per minute.

In the coming year, we will be attempting to exploit our new cryoprotective drugs and cooling/rewarming technology to make progress in preserving the brain and the heart for transplant purposes. Currently hearts can be stored for only 4 to 6 hours after they are removed from the donor.

Research Commitment

As of January 1997, The Life Extension Foundation has contributed or pledged a total of $1,339,668 for its PROJECT 2020 research programs aimed at conquering aging and death.

Your membership dues, donations and product purchases support research that could significantly extend your lifespan. Our products are of pharmaceutical quality, and can be purchased by Foundation members at near wholesale prices. Please purchase your supplements from the LIFE EXTENSION BUYERS CLUB to keep this research moving forward.