GRG News for 2012

"Profs. Stephen Coles, S. Jay Olshansky, and Leonard Hayflick Attend GSA Conference"

Profs. Coles, Olshansky, and Hayflick
Saturday, November 17, 2012; 7:30 PM PDT; Profs. L. Stephen Coles, S. Jay Olshansky, Leonard Hayflick, Bruce Carnes, David Staats, M.D. (Geriatrician), and Jacob Seagle (Demographer and Author of a standard text on actuarial sciences) met for dinner to discuss future funding of basic research in gerontology in connection with the 65th Annual GSA meeting in San Diego, CA.

"Prof. Leonard Hayflick Keynotes AMMG Conference"

Prof. Leonard Haylfick, Ph.D.
Friday, November 2, 2012; 8:30 AM PDT; Prof. Leonard Hayflick, my instructor in Medical Microbiology at Stanford University in 1974 (38 years ago), is acknowledged to be one of the top ten gerontologists in the world today for his discovery of what we now call "The Hayflick Limit" (the limit on the number of replications of fibroblasts as a function of minimum telomere length was shown to be 50 +/-10). I invited him to present as our Keynote Speaker at a four-day AMMG Conference in Las Vegas, NV at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. - - Stephen Coles

"The Biology of Aging Is Now Understood"


The belief that aging is still an unsolved problem in biology is no longer true. To understand this belief, it is necessary to define the four phenomena that characterize the finitude of life : (1) aging; (2) the determinants of longevity; (3) age-associated diseases; and finally (4) death. Age changes can occur in only two fundamental ways: Either (1) as the result of a purposeful program driven by our genes or (2) by stochastic (random) accidental molecular events.

The weight of evidence indicates that a gene-driven program does not govern the aging process; it is the stochastic or random loss of molecular fidelity that does. Potential longevity is determined by the energetics of molecules present after reproductive maturation, including those that compose the repair machinery involved in turnover, synthesis, and maintenance. The repair and synthesis processes that exceed the appearance of dysfunctional molecules prior to reproductive maturity then shifts so the spread of energy described in The Second Law of Thermodynamics [entropy] that creates an excess of dysfunctional molecules, begins to exceed repair capacity and the thermodynamic instability characteristic of the aging process begins. The maintenance, repair, and synthetic pathways that maintain the fidelity of molecules produced before and after reproductive maturity determine longevity. Unlike the stochastically-driven aging process, longevity determination is governed by the human genome. Furthermore, the aging process is fundamentally distinct from age-associated diseases.

Unlike diseases, age changes occur (a) in every multi-cellular animal that reaches a fixed size in adulthood; (b) and cross virtually all species barriers; (c) in all members of a species only after the age of reproductive maturation; (d) in all animals removed from the wild and protected by humans even when that species probably has not experienced "aging" for thousands or even millions of years; (e) in virtually all animate and inanimate matter; and (f) with the same universal molecular etiology -- that is, thermodynamic instability. Unlike aging, there is no disease or pathology that shares all six properties. Because this critical distinction is rarely understood, the enormous imbalance of resources spent more on studying age-associated disease than conducting research on the fundamental biology of aging cannot be expected to increase our knowledge of the aging process.

He also mentioned privately that "Studying the longevity of lab mice is like studying creatures from Mars! Studying highly inbred lab mice as opposed to wild-type mice doesn't tell us very much about the fundamental basis for natural aging."

"Chinese Government Delegation Visits UCLA"

L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D. Ivy Xiao, UCLA Translator
Chinese Delegation
Chinese Delegation
October 31, 2012; Associate Prof. Fu Wei of Bejing and Rong Li, Deputy Director General of the National Population and Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China hosted a delegation of 30 persons visiting UCLA as part of a tour of the USA. Dr. Coles presented the latest statistics on extreme world wide longevity. Ms. Ivy Xiao of UCLA served as a translator for the group.

"Healthy Aging: Taking Control of Your Life Seminar"

Prof. David Heber, M.D., Ph.D. Telomere Erosion
Saturday, October 27, 2012; [10:00 AM - 4:30 PM] - - The UCLA Longevity Center (Prof. Gary Small, M.D., Director) presented a one-day seminar at The Olympic Collection in West Los Angeles. Keynote speaker Prof. David Heber, M.D., Ph.D., FACP, FACN and Director of the Center for Human Nutrition spoke on "Nutritious Eating and an Active Lifestyle for Healthy Aging." The second slide demonstrates the concept of telomere erosion and the Hayflick Limit.

L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D.
Profs. L. Stephen Coles (UCLA) and Howard Friedman (UC Riverside) then hosted a session on "The Centenarians - - Life Past the Century Mark: A Look at the Art and Science of Living Past 100 and the Characteristics of Centenarians."

"Douglas C. Wallace Seminar at UCLA"

Profs. Douglas Wallace and Stephen Coles
Thursday, October 25, 2012; Prof. Douglas C. Wallace, Ph.D. of the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute in Pennsylvania presented a 4:00 PM Molecular Biology Institute Seminar on the topic of "A Mitochondrial Etiology of Complex Diseases: Verification Through Mouse Models."

"Professor Richard Dawkins of Oxford Gives Noon IMED Seminar at UCLA"

Prof. Richard Dawkins, Ph.D. Charles Darwin
Tuesday, October 9, 2012; Prof. Richard Dawkins of Oxford presented a Noon IMED Seminar at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine to a packed NRB Auditorium on the topic of "Darwin's Five Bridges." This was one of Dawkin's best lectures ever and the challenging Q&A afterward by a few adversaries was handled in a masterful fashion. Click on his photo to watch his lecture on the Internet.

"2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine"

Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon
Monday, October 8, 2012; Profs. John B. Gurdon of the UK and Shinya Yamanaka of JAPAN shared this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work in so-called Cellular Reprogramming, which has unleashed a wave of advances in everything from cloning to the possible treatment of diseases using stem cells.


1. Gautam Naik, "Stem-Cell Scientists Win Nobel Prize," The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1,2 (October 8, 2012).
2. Eryn Brown and Jon Bardin, "Nobel Prize Honors Two Stem-Cell Research Stars: An Old Hand from Britain (79) and a Younger Japanese Scientist (50) Profoundly Altered Beliefs about Biology," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1,8 (October 9, 2012).
3. Nicholas Wade, "Cloning and Stem Cell Work Earns Nobel," The New York Times, pp. A1,9 (October 9, 2012).
4. "Gurdon Gets an 'F' in Science in Grade School with Instructions Not To Waste His Time," CNN Anderson Cooper 360 (October 9, 2012; 5:58 PM PDT; TRT=2 min.)

"LA Chapter Physicians for Social Responsibility September Gala"

Stephen and Natalie Coles
Sunday, September 9, 2012; [6:30 - 10:30] PM; PSR-LA Board Member L. Stephen Coles M.D., Ph.D. and Natalie Coles at thye September Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel.

"Longevity 8 International Conference in Toronto"

L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D.
Panel Discussion in Waterloo
Friday, September 7, 2012; 8:30 AM EDT; Dr. Coles was invited to present the keynote address "Secrets of the Oldest Old" to the Longevity 8, the Eighth International Longevity Risk and Capital Markets Solutions Conference in Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA, to 160 attendees from 16 counties. The Conference and sponsored by the world-wide insurance and pensions industry. Click on the second photo of the Panel Discussion for more details.

"Book Signing at 40th Annual Cancer Convention"

L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D.,
Saturday, September 1, 2012; [1:00 - 5:30] PM; Sheraton Universal Hotel in Hollywood, FL Dr. Coles does a book signing at the 40th Annual Cancer Convention.

"Oldest Male Panda Dies in Berlin Zoo"

Bao Bao dies at 34 yo
August 21, 2012; Bao Bao, the oldest known male panda died in Berlin at the age of 34 yo. Click on his photo for more details.

"20-Hour UCLA Course on Human Longevity and Successful Aging"

L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D.
Friday, August 10, 2012; 10:00 AM PDT; Classroom 320; 1010 Wilshire Blvd. in Westwood, CA; Dr. Coles completes a 20-hour course on "Successful Aging for the Individual and for Society" with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) of the UCLA Extension Program for 22 adult students.

"Immunology of Aging"

Steve Coles and Doron Melamed, Ph.D.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012; 7:30 PM; Prof. Doron Melamed, Ph.D., an immunologist at the Technion in Haifa, ISRAEL [the Israeli equivalent of MIT and CalTech combined with the exception that there is a medical school across the street {Rambam Hospital}] who lectured in Beverly Hills at the home of Joan and Arnold Seidel for the American Technion Society, spoke on "Turning Back the Clock: An Approach to Reversing the Aging Process." Melamed's Lab has proven the hypothesis that the increasing immune incompetence with age and the decline in B-Cell Lymphocyte numbers (the cells that synthesize antibodies) is not due to the capability to synthesize new B-Cells in the bone marrow compartment (in the peripheral blood, these cells last only about two weeks before being replenished), but due to the increase in the numbers of "Memory Cells" (which last for decades and are the cells that are created after immunizations, for example, to give one permanent immunity to certain disease-causing microbes). Memory Cells provide transcription factors that serve as a negative feedback loop on the production of fresh B-Cells. If the large numbers of Memory Cells that increases with exposure to more and more antigens over a lifetime could be cleared out then maybe the machinery to create more B-cells could be turned back on. This is exactly what happened in a group of tens of mice that Melamed's Lab tested using a drug called Rituxan. Unfortunately, a full life-history experiment was not performed to verify that the experimental mice lived statistically-significantly longer than controls due to cost considerations. Rituxan is a chemotherapy drug (that is administered by IV in a hospital or clinic once a week for a period of [4 - 6] weeks frequently in combination with methotrexate) that is indicated to treat Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Melamed is working with hematology oncologists to test the immune function of patients with lympoma who are taking Rituxan already to identify the Transcription and Complement Factors that control the synthesis of fresh B Cells. This work serves as a proof of concept for future research.

"Wired Photo Shoot"

Wired Photo Shoot
Monday, August 6, 2012; 1:30 PM; Professional Photographer, Mr. Gregg Segal of Altadena, CA under contract to Wired Magazine, shot 218 digital camera portrait photos in three hours at the UCLA Lab of Drs. Eric Vilane, M.D., Ph.D. and Ruth Baxter, Ph.D. of Stephen Coles for a story on aging research. The story is expected to appear in the October issue of Wired.

"Where is Heaven Located?"

Getty Panel
Grim Reaper
L. Sephen Coles
Monday, July 26, 2012; [7:30 - 9:30] PM; Los Angeles, CA; The Getty Center Museum and Zocalo Public Square presented a Distinguished Panel discussing the topic "What Does Heaven Look Like?" to an audience of over 200 visitors in the Harld M. Williams Auditorium.

The Takeaway: Heaven's Nice, But Hell's More Fun To Paint!
Human depiction of the afterlife is as varied as our diverse cultures.

Where's heaven? What's it like? Who gets in? And what tortures await those of us who land in the alternative destination?

It was revealed that there are at least two heavens: (1) a "Celestial" Heaven which lies somewhere high up in the sky (over the rainbow); and (2) a "Terrestrial" Heaven that corresponds to the "Garden of Eden," as described in Genesis, assuming that you can find it (BTW, the East Gate of the Garden is guarded by an Archangel with a "flashing and flaming sword" (so, a heavy-duty angel, not a Cupid with tiny wings) to ensure that no mortal human(s) reenter after we were expelled for our "original sin" (eating from the "Tree of Knowledge" when we explicitly prohibited from doing so) as we were tempted by the serpent and lest we eat from the second tree - - the "Tree of Life" - - and become like us {immortal?} [the only occasion in the Bible, to my knowledge, that God speaks of Himself as a "plural" entity {leading us to conclude that Heaven may be populated by a pantheistic "tribe of gods" who preexisted the creation of Adam and Eve. If you're looking for a plot for a new Bible story, here it is! Wait - - Wasn't this written down by Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, as something that we now call mythology, but which for them was the real thing?}]).

Since your spirit (soul), which presumably leaves the mortal body at the time of your death, and your body which decays almost immediately with the onset of death (which must be rendered as youthful and "perfect") are to be reunited (integrated) in Heaven (assuming you're deemed worthy and admitted by Saint Peter to pass through the "pearly gates") in order for you to "be with God," this would present a paradox of sorts, depending on how you died. For example, if you were eaten by a pack of wolves as the "cause of your demise" then the wolves would have to regurgitate your body parts before assimilating them into their wolf bodies so that these parts could be properly reassembled and magically transformed into a youthful form. Could you fine tune this scenario further, as you ostensibly meet with all of your long lost relatives who predeceased you back to the time of Adam and Eve, whom you haven't seen in a while but can now fill in on what you and they have been doing since you last saw each other on Earth, even if you weren't born before they died so you never intersected in time? BTW, is there a divine news service to track the activities of our heavenly hosts and the hierarchy of angels who live there in harmonious bliss, so that we can be brought quickly up-to-date upon our arrival into the next life?

Also, where will the 40 virgins be found to fulfill the promise made to male Islamic suicide bombers when they martyred themselves with an explosion to kill the non-believers with a guaranteed ticket to "Paradise." What if there are not enough virgins in Heaven to go around? Maybe their Islamic Heaven is in a different place and the virgins in question were never real women on the Earth.

This leads to another paradox of sorts... If the conditions for admission require that you have been baptized as a Catholic and have had a ritual of Last Rights administered by a priest before you die, what about the innocent babies who were born but died of a disease before they could be baptized. At one time it was assumed that they resided in "limbo," anther location between Heaven and Hell that awaited Jesus to determine their disposition at the end of time (whenever that would be). Jesus has dominion over a great many things (as explained in Revelation , the last book of the New Testament).

"Purgatory" is another concept that requires some fine tuning. The panel's conclusion was that the concept of Heaven (and Hell) is a fuzzy, slippery slope that can lead you down any direction you chose.

Here are some more details...

Scholars of religion, history, and art asked these questions during a panel discussion at the Getty Museum, in which they explored the ways different societies have imagined and depicted the afterlife and what the images we create of Heaven and Hell say about life on Earth.

Producer and documentary filmmaker Jody Hassett Sanchez opened the conversation by asking UCLA Buddhism expert Robert Buswell where, according to the Buddha, the heavens are located.

"There are many different heavens in the Buddhist system," said Buswell as many as 27. But they don't have a geography: the heavens are a level of rebirth, like existence as a human being or an animal. In fact, going to heaven is "kind of a consolation prize" for Buddhists. The real goal is to experience nirvana, which can't be located, measured, desired, or experienced.

In medieval Christianity, heaven is above, while hell is below. There's an opposition between going up and going down, said Martin Schwarz, the curator of the Getty exhibition "Heaven, Hell, and Dying Well: Images of Death in the Middle Ages." And while hell is usually depicted with a lot of detail in medieval art, heaven is shown with much less specificity it's not in one particular place.

On the other hand, for Native American tribes of the West, heaven was something very literal, said UCLA anthropologist Peter Nabokov. In Pueblo Indian society, there is no idea of sin, so everyone gets into heaven. A picture of heaven he found contains a certain number of trees, a pile of dead rabbits for an imminent feast as well as corn being harvested. In heaven, your ancestors are also waiting for you.

Quoting Belinda Carlisle "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" Hassett Sanchez asked UC Santa Barbara religion historian Jeffrey Burton Russell about whether Heaven and Earth ever come together in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

"Heaven is where God is," said Burton Russell. The location is beyond space and time, however. Up until the 1600's or 1700's, Christians believed quite literally that you traveled up to Heaven via a ladder or stairs, or circles as in Dante's Divine Comedy. And even though Dante described Hell specifically, he used metaphor to describe Heaven. Heaven, said Dante, was beyond language.

Even medieval artists, in depicting heaven, did it in a way that showed that it lies outside human perception viewing it through a window or even choosing to hide it behind a wall, explained Schwarz.

In Buddhism, said Buswell, there is a physical body in some heavens, but in higher levels of heavens there is no physical embodiment. You can't even try to paint these heavens.

Nabokov brought the conversation back to earth. "I'd like to introduce a little history and reality into all this conceptual talk," he said. "For colonized people around the world, the 19th century was the end of the world." For Native Americans in California and indigenous people around the world, the 19th century was a hell on earth, and their visions of heaven were those of release from mass murder and disease. In California, Indians came together in earth lodges and prayed for the world outside to be cleared of white people and hogs (who ate the acorns), for the land to be re-carpeted with wildflowers, and for those who had been killed by disease to return. These "very concrete, very practical cosmologies of what heaven on earth would look like" were developing all over the world at this time, according to Nabokov.

So how does one get into Heaven, anyway?

While today we desire a quick and painless death, for a medieval Christian, said Schwarz, a quick death was the worst thing, because you couldn't prepare for the afterlife.

In the Christian tradition, said Burton Russell, if you're a sinner and you repent even at the moment of death it's enough to get you into heaven.

In Buddhism, the process of death involves "very elaborate visualization exercises," said Buswell. These can take up to 40 days, as a person is guided through rebirth.

Before turning to the audience for the question-and-answer session, Hassett Sanchez asked the panelists whether our fixation today on living well rather than dying well is a luxury. Do other cultures, past and present, think of the afterlife differently because their life on earth is so difficult?

Nabokov said that the primary concern of Native Americans in life and death is the community rather than the individual. In Pueblo Indian society, the health of the community is much more important. When the community is thriving, people live in the present; when the community is suffering, they imagine alternative heavens in response.

Said Burton Russell, "It is indicative of our modern society that we tend to think of ourselves as individuals divorced from the rest of people." Today, we see death as being far into the future we try to have fun on earth to avoid it. But living a good life, in western religion, is not about having fun it's not the point.

In the question-and-answer session, the audience asked the panelists to talk more about the intersection between religion and history. How did the plagues of the Middle Ages affect people's conceptions of Heaven and Hell?

After the Black Death in the 14th century, said Burton Russell, you saw more terrifying and immediate representations of death. The image of the skeleton, said Schwarz, is often related to the plague.

Have horrifying images of Hell been used throughout history to keep people under control?

In the middle ages, said Schwarz, people paid a lot of money to commission books full of beautiful but terrifying paintings of Hell. In Buddhism, said Buswell, there are very elaborate depictions of suffering in Hell to encourage (incentivize) good behavior.

Overall, though, Heaven and Hell have a disappointing record when it comes to discouraging vice. Or, to put it another way, Heaven and Hell have been more successful in inspiring good art than in inspiring good behavior.

"$10 Million Archon Genomics X Prize for 100 Centenarian Complete Genomes in One Month"

Ion Bus L. Stephen Coles,
Caleb E. Finch, and Laurence H. Kedes
Monday, July 23, 2012; 12:30 PM PDT; Children's Hospital; Los Angeles, CA. The Ion Bus is a mobile DNA sequencing platform designed to travel around the country to visit healthy elderly and sequence their genes right on the spot in less than 6 hours. The bus started in Florida and went to NYC before coming to Los Angeles.

US$10 Million will be given to the first team to successfully sequence the whole genome of 100 healthy centenarian subjects within 30 days at a maximum cost of $1,000 per genome at an error rate no greater than 1 per million base pairs and achieves best-in-class requirements for the following prize categories: Accuracy, Completeness, and Haplotype Phasing.

Conceived by Dr. J. Craig Venter, the goal of the competition is to usher in a new era of personalized medicine, revolutionizing genomic sequencing and challenging scientists to design rapid, inexpensive, and accurate whole genome sequencing technologies.

Drs. Coles, Finch, and Kedes are shown during an interview for the press about the project. Click on the bus to learn more of the details.

Natalie S. Coles amd Dr. Young Ghe Chung
Sunday, May 27, 2012; 10:00 PM; Natalie S. Coles chats with Dr. Young Ghe Chung, a world expert Veterinarian in animal cloning at the Gladstone Restaurant in Pacific Palisades, CA.

"Fulbright Scholar BBQ at UCLA"

Dr. Coles at Fulbright BBQ
Sunday, May 27, 2012; 2:30 PM; Dr. Stephen Coles attends an International Fulbright Scholars BBQ during the Memorial Day Weekend.

"Mannkind Labs"

Dr. Coles at Mannkind Labs
Wednesday, May 23, 2012; 3:30 PM; Dr. Stephen Coles inspects the labs at the Alfred E. Mann Mannkind Facilities.

"Lecture on Aging to UCLA Affiliates"

Dr. Coles with Sherman, 102 yo Drs. Stephen Coles and Glorya Dixon
Thursday, May 17, 2012; 12:45 PM; Dr. L. Stephen Coles gave the Keynote Lecture to the UCLA Affiliates luncheon on "The Secrets of the Oldest Old" to about 50 interested members. Sherman in the photo above is 102 years old himself.

"Prof. Christof Koch on Consciousness"

Christof Koch, Ph.D.
Sunday, May 13, 2012; 2:00 PM; CalTech; Pasadena, CA; Christof Koch, Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology in the Biology Division, spoke to the Skeptics Society regarding the topic of his new book, Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist (MIT Press; Cambridge, MA; 2012). Click on his photo for more details.

"David Steinman for US Congress"

David Steinman
Wednesday, May 9, 2012; 4:30 PM PDT; Playa del Rey, CA; For a 30-second unlisted YouTube Video Commercial made for David Steinman for Congress for the California Primary Election that will take place on June 5th, click on the photo above. You may have to type in the link manually as Dr. Coles appears briefly giving an endorsement along with Ms. Alexandra Paul, one of the actresses from Baywatch (a popular TV Series from the [1989 - 2001] time period).

"AMMG Lecture on a Supercentenarian with Severe Dementia"

L. Stephen Coles
Sunday, May 6, 2012; 1:00 PM EDT; AMMG Conference Lecture at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa; Hollywood, FL; Dr. Coles presented the autopsy data on the "Neuropathology of a Supercentenarian with Severe Senile Dementia."

"Dr. Anthony S. Fauci Gives Medical Grand Rounds at Stanford"

The Coles with Dr, Tony Fauci
Wednesday, April 18, 2012; [8:00 -- 9:10] AM PDT; Department of Medicine, Stanford University; Stanford, CA; Dr. Anthony Fauci, M.D. of NIH gave a superb one-hour review of HIV/AIDS research at Grand Rounds: "Are We Close to a Cure?" Although a vaccine has not yet arrived after 30 years of substantial effort, the value of male circumcision for risk reduction was made conspicuously clear.

"Stephen Coles Gives Longevity Lecture at Stanford Medical School

Walter Bortz and Steve Coles Steve Coles and Walter Bortz
L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012; [7:00 - 9:00] PM PDT; "The Roadmap to 100: The Science of Living a Long Life," a Ten-Week Course at Stanford University's Continuing Education (Bio-05) by Walter M. Bortz, II, M.D.; Stephen and Natalie Coles presented a lecture entitled "Inside the Lives of the World's Oldest People" containing over 100 PowerPoint slides to over 75 students.

We had an early diner with Stanford Immunologist, Prof. James Fries, M.D. with whom I've worked for over 38 years (as well as his wife Sarah) before the start of our Lecture.

Steve Coles and Vint Cerf of Google
Saturday, March 31, 2012; 3:00 PM PDT; Tustin, CA; Steve Coles and Vint Cerf of Google in Washington, D.C.

"UCLA IMED Seminar on hESC's for the Eye"

Dr. Robert Lanza, M.D., ACT Prof. Steven Schwartz,  M.D., Jules Stein
February 29, 2012; Noon; Drs. Robert Lanza of ACT and Steven Schwartz of UCLA Ophthalmology jointly presented the first FDA-approved clinical trial on diseases of the eye using human embryonic stem cells at the IMED Seminar. Click on the first photo for more details from The Wall Street Journal.

"The Connectome"

MIT Prof. Sebastian Seung
February 15, 2012; On a national book tour for his new book The Connectome, Prof. Sebastian Seung made a one-hour presentation at Vroman's Books in Pasadena, CA.

"Gordon Research Conference on the Biology of Aging in Ventura, CA"

Gordon Conference on Aging Attendees
February 14, 2012; The Gordon Research Conference on the Biology of Aging was held in Ventura, CA from February 12-17, 2012. Attendees included George Martin, M.D., Seattle, WA; Aubrey de Grey, Ph.D., Cambridge, UK; Hinco Gierman, Ph.D., Stanford University; Tom Perls, M.D., Boston University; Cynthia Kenyon, Ph.D., UCSF; Richard Miller, M.D., Ph.D., University of Michigan; Steven Austad, Ph.D., University of Texas; Elliot Bergman, Ph.D., Valdosta, GA; Nir Barzilai, M.D., Einstein, New York City; Jan Vijig, Ph.D., Einstein; New York City; Judy Campisi, Ph.D., Buck Institute; Novato, CA; Brad Wilcox, M.D., Honolulu, HI; Tom Kirkwood, Ph.D., UK; Nicholas Schork, Ph.D., UCSD; Gordon Lithgow, Ph.D., Buck Institute, Novato, CA; Rita Effros, Ph.D., UCLA; Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D., UCLA; and Valter Longo, Ph.D., USC.
Thomas T. Perls, M.D.
Tom Perls, M.D. Boston University
Hinco Gierman, Ph.D.
Hinco Gierman, Ph.D., Stanford University
Brad Wilcox, M.D.
Brad Wilcox, M.D.; Honolulu, HI

"Defeating Aging with Regenerative Medicine"

Aubrey de Grey, Ph.D.
Aubrey de Grey, Ph.D.
February 12, 2012; 7:00 PM; Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Chief Science Office of SENS, gave a one- hour lecture to 60 attendees of the Local SENS Chapter Meeting at the Brewery in downtown Los Angeles near the USC Keck School of Medicine.

"Eigth Annual Stem Cells Symposium: Stem Cells and Cancer"

Prof. Donald B. Kohn, M.D. Slide
Friday, February 10, 2012; [8:00 AM - 4:30 PM]. Dr. Jonathan Thomas, Ph.D., J.D., the current Chairman of CIRM, started the Eight Annual UCLA Stem Cells Symposium: Stem Cells and Cancer with a discussion of the prospects for a new round of funding from the State of California when current funding is expected to be completed in about five years. Recall that under Robert Klein, Prop. 71 [2004] provided $3 billion over a ten-year period of which $1.3B has been spent with $[5-6] million committed in RFA's for next year. CIRM has provided universities with a significant amount of infrastructure and buildings for its private and public universities as well as training grants for students, Residents, and Post-Doctoral Fellows. Collaboration with researchers around the world has been a hallmark of CIRM's approach. Collaboration with California-based industry has also been important to translate basic resaerch into commercial products. But in order for the citizens of California to provide a similar amount of support in the future, CIRM will have to demonstrate value for this investment in the form of cures for specific diseases that will impact health-care economics within our state. One such disease is Sickle Cell Disease (SSD), which affects more than 80,000 persons. The Mendelian genetic basis for SS Anemia has been known for decades (a point mutation in in the Beta Hemoglobin gene {G=C --> A=T} results in a {Glu -- > Val} amino acid substitution in the final protein [the mutation is maintained in the general population, since it confers a modest resistance to malaria] resulting in the formation of rouleaux [a stacking of hemoglobin tetramers like a roll of coins due to self-stickiness] ultimataly deforming membranes of Red Blood Cells giving them a sickle shape under the microscope and blocking them from passing easily (deformably) through narrow capillaries, thereby chocking off blood flow to the distal (downstream) veins resulting in significant pain in the joints [due to tissue anoxia] for those afflicted with this condition. Little can be done today short of a bone-marrow transplant from a sibling donor to alleviate this disease, which disproportionally afflicts Black Americans. In my opinion, curing the root-cause of SSD through CIRM funding, could be the "Silver Bullet" that would be needed to convince the public to renew a next round of funding. The cure is on the drawing boards in the form of genetic engineering in which Zinc Fingers (six nucelotides on each side of the corrected sequence) would be used to do a snip-out and back-in a genetic correction to the bad gene in the native chromosome in which the defective gene resides. The zinc-finger technology is being developed by a company in Northern California (Sangamo Biosciences of Richmond, CA) and has been tested using a viral vector in animal models. (See the poster above that will be published soon.) A Phase-1, FDA-approved human clinical trial is planned to begin in about two years with autologous bone-marrow transplants (obviating the concern about using anti-rejection drugs), hopefully in time to influence public opinion when it is most needed. The beauty of this approach is that the technology is generic, since it could be applied to a wide variety of genetic diseases and not just SSD.

"Systems Biology and the Future of Medicine"

Prof. Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D.
Dinner in Westwood
Wednesday, February 8, 2012; 12:00 Noon. Prof. Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Systems Biology Institute of Seattle, WA gave a talk to the UCLA IMED Seminar to a full audience on the topic of "Systems Biology, Transforming Technologies, and the Emergence of Proactive 'P4' Medicine." BTW, P4 stands for "Predictive, Preventive, Personalized, and Participatory." Genomic biology is digital; however, proteomics is still analog, so it's slower going. The cost of complete sequencing will go from ~$4,000 today to under $1,000 at the end of next year. Furthermore, the cost is forecast to go down to $200 in five years. So, after that time, all newborns will have their sequences routinely done at birth; the sequence will be anonymized and placed in a public data base for biostatistical analysis. Indeed, doctors may come to request a genomic/epigenetic profile to be done every year on all patients over age 60 on an annual basis, as part of their routine screening. Click on the first photo above for a direct link to the P4 Medical Institute and a short peek into the future of medicine as it will be practiced in five years.

"Understanding our Genes: Steps Toward Personalized Medicine"

San Diego, CA
Drs. J. Craig Venter and Alan Trounson
Tuesday, January 17, 2012; Noon; San Diego, CA; Drs. J. Craig Venter, Ph.D. and Catriona Jamieson, M.D., Ph.D. gave a joint keynote address to the CIRM Board of Directors at their all-day business meeting. Click on the photo of Craig Venter and Alan Trounson, President of CIRM, for a full video of the presentation.

"A Universe from Nothing"

Lawrence Krauss, Ph.D. The Amazing Randi
Sunday, January 15, 2012; 2:00 PM; CalTech, Pasadena, CA; Lawrence Krauss, Ph.D., a theoretical physicist and cosmologist from Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ, spoke to the Skeptics Society on the topic of "Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing." After his talk, he autographed copies of his new book.

Where did the universe come from? What was there before? Why was there something rather than nothing? Such questions have been at the heart of religious and philosophical debates about the existence of God, but in recent years science has been closing in on the answers. Krauss takes us back to the beginning of the beginning, presenting the most recent evidence for how our universe evolved and how it's going to end - - not with a bang but with a whimper. As Richard Dawkins writes "This could potentially be the most important scientific book with implications for supernaturalism since Darwin."

In the Audience was a famous magician, The Amazing James Randi, 84, a long-time member of two different skeptics societies. Click on his photo above for a link to his Foundation and the unclaimed US$1,000,000 prize for the first person to demonstrate a supernatural capability that withstands the scrutiny of scientific skeptics.

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