Easter Island dirt may hold key to longer life
Anti-fungal agent gives mice more birthdays
A group of US scientists believe that an anti-fungal agent found in the soil of Easter Island may have life-extending properties.
When the compound rapamycin was fed to middle-aged mice, life expectancy is claimed to have been raised by 28 per cent in males and 38 per cent in females.
The findings published in the journal Nature has the researchers going so far as to say the compound could lead to an "anti-aging pill" for humans.
They caution, however, that using the the drug now to extend lifespan is dangerous because it also strongly suppresses the immune system. Rapamycin is currently used to prevent rejection in organ transplants.
The hope is that further testing of the effects of rapamycin could lead to a safer drug for a human population.
Three research teams - from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor Maine - chose rapamycin because it appears to shut down the same molecular pathway as calorie restricting, making it a candidate for anti-aging therapy in mammals.
"I've been in aging research for 35 years and there have been many so-called 'anti-aging' interventions over those years that were never successful," said Arlan Richardson, director of the Barshop Institute at the UT Health Science Center. "I never thought we would find an anti-aging pill for people within my lifetime; however, rapamycin shows a great deal of promise to do just that."
Male and female mice were crossbred from four different strains of mice to better simulate the genetic diversity and disease susceptibility of humans. The original idea was to test rapamycin on much younger mice, but the compound first needed some re-tuning to more reliably enter the bloodstream.
By the time they had the compound properly reformulated, the mice were about 20 months old — an age equivalent to 60 in humans. They decided to start feeding it to the mice anyway.
"I did not think that it would work because the mice were too old when the treatment was started," said Richardson. "Most reports indicate that calorie restriction doesn't work when implemented in older animals. The fact that rapamycin increases lifespan in relatively old mice was totally unexpected."
Rapamycin was first discovered as a product of a bacteria found in a soil sample from Easter Island — also known by its Polynesian name Rapa Nui.
Randy Strong, who directs the UT's Aging Intervention Testing Center, said the study of rapamycin has identified it as a potential target for developing drugs for preventing age-related diseases and extending a healthy lifespan.
"If rapamycin - or drugs like rapamycin - works as envisioned, the potential reduction in overall health cost for the US and the world will be enormous." ®
"3. Religion. Religion has nothing against longevity."
Religion has nothing to do with longevity. Longevity is a modern phenomena, brought on by knowledge of nutrition and medicine. Proper daily exercise helps, too.
"Judism (and by extension, Christianity and Islam) have published how our ancestors lived for hundreds of years."
Yes. They have "published" tall tales of longevity, with zero proof. Some people believe the tales, despite evidence to the contrary. (Hint: There have been exactly zero human bones dug up that prove to have been interred for over 2,000 years which show signs of being over 80ish years old at time of death.)
"If you are _really_ bored, try calculating out the ages of everyone in "Numbers" for yourself."
Been there, done that, using modern translations, as well as the ancient Aramaic, Koine Greek & Latin variations. The numbers(sic) the translations claim aren't always in alignment throughout history, and are laughable when compared to reality.
The various works of Judaism & its derivatives are badly flawed when taken in a literal context. But whatever. Follow your bliss.
 My Masters minor was a variation of RS that I wrote myself (don't ask).
Better living through chemistry/medicine?
The problems we have as humans don't care how old you get to be. If I may:
1. Population. Not everyone deserves offspring; pure and simple. You don't have to plonk out 12 kids anymore because 11 of them will die before the age of 10 - we are even able to keep deformed and crippled alive and suffering well into their their twenties and beyond. The idea that any one person's genetics are special enough *and that they are automatically passed on to all your offspring* is egotistical genetic avarice. Anyone attempting to "ensure" it happens (designer genetics, IVF, Catholics) are simply trying to have the bigger, badder, shinier SUV in their utereus. Err... carpark.
2. Resources. It does not matter whether a minority (person) or majority (corporation, gubmint, etc.) controls the resources of an area. If you give each individual all the resources they are apportioned or that they "need", the majority of them will squander the share they are given and kick and scream that someone else still has any when they come up short. That's the curse of "human nature"; we never have "enough". In order to live "sustainably", we have to bring everyone _down_ to a common standard of living, and all the death, disease, and pain that it brings. Oddly enough, Americans in 1700/1800's were more apt to do this as a whole society than any other; the mass migrations out of the comfortable cities into the wilderness and death of the Louisiana Purchase and the West. (http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/~fe2r/papers/essay.pdf) There are others; don't get your panties in a bunch - just not as a percentage of population (without cause of volcanoe, glacier, war or other "natural" disaster). Try telling the newly middle-class in India or Russia that they have to go back to "sustainable" levels - no cars, no unlimitied electricity (if any at all), all the food you eat you have to grow/raise yourself. Not many volunteers, eh?.
3. Religion. Religion has nothing against longevity. Judism (and by extension, Christianity and Islam) have published how our ancestors lived for hundreds of years. If you are _really_ bored, try calculating out the ages of everyone in "Numbers" for yourself. There is nothing inherently "righteous", noble, or grand about living a short life or a long one; its always about what you do with your life. If you are a rat b@stard who lives 200 years or 12 years, you are still a rat b@stard.
The problem is that we fear death, as life is all that we "know". The human race is still tribal; "my family and I have more right to X than anyone else's family", etc. and we still extend this thinking on macro levels of communities, state, countries, and continents. There are thoughts that this is inherent because of our evolution, and there are thoughts that if we weren't brought up in a world of "scarcity" we would not act this way (www.thevenusproject.com). Which is true? Well, if Muhammed wrote, "the Jew is thy brother", why is there a problem in the Middle East?
Cue Beavis & Butt Head style sniggering...