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Breaking the Bottleneck: A Synergy of Technology and Medicine – Article by Zach Richardson

Breaking the Bottleneck: A Synergy of Technology and Medicine – Article by Zach Richardson

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Zach Richardson


In March of 2019, I began to have a very strange problem. I was breathing normally, but felt like I was suffocating. The problem became much worse when lying down, but seemed to come and go arbitrarily. Some days it would be really bad, and on others I didn’t even notice it. This happened twice in a week, and I checked with a doctor. He assured me I had anxiety and gave me a prescription for some anxiolytic medicine. I couldn’t breathe, and his solution was Xanax. I stupidly trusted him.

In May 2019, I ended up in the hospital. My body was turning yellow, and my liver, kidneys, and heart were failing. The cause was idiopathic; none of the 7 specialists knew why I was having congestive heart failure. A couple of drugs were tried, but in the end the only solution they said would save my life was the implantation of a mechanical device that would help my heart pump: a Ventricular Assist Device, or VAD.

I was lucky enough to be selected as a perfect candidate for a clinical trial, partially due to being particularly young for having Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). A new version of an already cutting-edge technology would be tested on my body, and the results would be recorded for their study. The machine they implanted was called the Heartmate 3, and it saved my life.

The VAD is currently used either as “bridge” or “destination” therapy, with “bridge” meaning that it is used only temporarily until one can get a heart transplant, and “destination” meaning that one is ineligible for transplant at all, and will have the VAD for the rest of one’s life. Some of the contraindications for VAD implantation being bridge therapy include being obese or over 65 years of age. Luckily, I am not either of those two, and therefore am eligible for a transplant. However, there are two factors that are going to lead to it likely being an extremely long time before a donor heart is available. One is that I am a larger man, standing at 6 feet tall, meaning I require a larger-than-average heart. The other is that I have Type O blood, which is the hardest from the standpoint of receiving an organ donation.

This puts me in a very interesting situation, where I am a young man who may have many years still ahead of him with an implanted device. It may be 7 years from now when I get the call for transplant, or it may be tomorrow. If it happens 7 years from now, there may be therapies that will have been developed that would allow me to regrow my heart, or clone one from my stem cells, and thereby avoid having to be on a cocktail of immunosuppressants indefinitely. Unfortunately, even Athersys only has CHF treatments in the preclinical stage, which means I may have to wait a while. I intensely wish those trials weren’t being constrained like they are.

Having set significant life extension towards the very top of my hierarchy of values, I am extremely grateful that I live in a society where these technologies are available to me. I have a highly personal interest in seeing a society of scientists and biomedical engineers emerge to help develop these technologies! However, part of my situation was just me getting lucky: I had the treatment I needed approved just months before receiving it, and happened to have top-notch insurance.

One unfortunate side effect of having a centralized regulatory system is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is only held responsible for what are known as “Type I Errors”. A Type I error is where the FDA passes an unsafe drug or treatment, leading to harm to an individual or group. Unfortunately, this means that FDA officials do not seem to care at all about “Type II Errors”, where they do not pass a life-saving treatment or drug in time to save someone’s life. The FDA is so terrified of having another Vioxx incident, that FDA officials are overly cautious in approving the use of radically innovative and breakthrough technologies. The fact that these technologies carry some risk is something of no worry to someone who is going to die if they don’t get the treatment. It is much harder to blame the FDA for being too safe than it is to blame them for being reckless.

This is why I am proud to be a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party (USTP), where science and technology are put at the forefront of American politics. The current bottleneck those like me with CHF face is regulatory hurdles. Article VI, Section VI, of the USTP Constitution states: “The United States Transhumanist Party upholds morphological freedom—the right to do with one’s physical attributes or intelligence whatever one wants so long as it does not directly harm others.” Right now what I and others with CHF would like to do is to get a stem-cell heart. We are being hindered not by direct legislation restricting morphological freedom, but by the far more pernicious hindrance of excessive regulatory burden. The treatments we want are being developed exponentially slower than they could be, because each step of the way has to adhere to draconian testing standards. This means a lot of Type II errors are being committed. We are not being told, “You cannot get this treatment.” Providers are being told, “You cannot provide this treatment.”

In my ideal world, regulatory agencies would work more like Underwriters Laboratories or Quality Assurance International. Leaving regulatory activity to the market, far from the fearmongering of producing dangerous and shoddy drugs and treatments, would instead invigorate the institutions as they would compete to certify the best products and treatments for consumers, since their names and reputations would be on the line.

I believe there needs to be a much stronger focus in regulatory institutions toward the elimination of Type II Errors, because there are a lot of sick people going untreated.

Zach Richardson is a Certified Supply Chain Professional and small-business co-owner producing respirator-style masks to help stem the tide of COVID-19’s spread. His website is isgmanufacturing.com. He is a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Exercise is Currently the Best Way to Slow Down Aging – Article by Michael Falk

Exercise is Currently the Best Way to Slow Down Aging – Article by Michael Falk

Michael Falk


Editor’s Note: In this article, Mr. Michael Falk explains how exercising slows down aging. This article was originally published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF).

                   ~ Kenneth Alum, Director of  Publication, U.S. Transhumanist Party, January 25, 2018

We have all heard that exercise is good for our health. However, it can not only keep you healthy, it can also slow down some aspects of aging. Some researchers even think that it might be possible to use this knowledge to develop new therapies against aging. While waiting for that to happen, we need to exercise in order to slow down the effects of aging.

How important is it to keep fit?

So, how beneficial is exercising? Well, one of the best studies conducted on this subject showed that women will live 5.6 years longer and men 6.2 years longer if they exercise between 1 and 2.5 hours per week [1]. This makes exercise a better lifestyle choice than any other, at least as long as you’re not counting avoiding downright dangerous behavior, such as smoking.

The main benefits of physical activity may come from better health for the heart. Exercise lessens the risk for many types of heart disease [2]. It is even more beneficial for people who already suffered age-related conditions, including stroke and coronary heart disease, and it is more effective than any known drug in preventing repeated episodes [3].

The key improvements also include increased muscle strength, stronger bones, better weight control, and improved cognitive function. This means less risk of age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, as well as lethal falls, which are a major risk for the elderly.

The conclusion is that exercise helps with a lot of different aspects of your health in several ways, and we can summarize its effects as improving quality of life and increasing healthspan.

How much exercise do you need?

More exercise does not always improve outcomes. Professional athletes exercise more than the rest of us, and they generally live longer than the average person [4]. However, correlation isn’t causation, and robust individuals are perhaps more likely to become athletes, instead of the other way around. There could even be negative effects from too much exercise, although that is far from certain.

Even moderate exercise leads to better health. Half an hour a day seems to be enough to see positive effects, and it is also a common recommendation for the minimum amount of exercise you should get. The biggest difference can be seen between people who hardly move around at all and people who get at least a little exercise a few times a week. Taking the stairs and walking short distances is clearly better than nothing. In fact, some studies show that even light activity, such as housework, can have an effect on mortality risk.

It should also be noted that there are different types of exercise and that these could have different benefits. Jogging increases your aerobic ability, which should, among other things, lead to better heart health. Lifting weights is an anaerobic exercise that improves strength and should bring other benefits, such as stronger bones. A lot of research about this has been done already, but so far, we don’t definitively know the optimal amount and type of training for each particular type of person.

Drugs to mimic exercise

Some of the positive effects have to do with the anti-inflammatory processes that occur when exercising [5]. Other mechanisms appear to be involved, although more research on these mechanisms is needed.

Since the advantages of exercise are clear, the idea has occurred to some researchers that it may be possible to mimic the effects of exercise without doing the hard work and getting sweaty. Research is now being conducted using drugs that target the same mechanisms to try to get the same benefits of exercise.

This typically involves adjusting a part of the human metabolism, which is not an easy matter. However, there have been at least some tentative breakthroughs already, and last year, a team found a drug that boosted the endurance of mice by roughly 70 percent [6]. Where this might lead in the future is not clear, but some positive effects may come from this research.

Will exercise lead to longevity?

Even though exercise is beneficial for your health, there is no guarantee it will keep you alive until you reach 100, although staying fit will almost certainly improve your chances. This is why if we want to remain in good health and live longer, we need to develop rejuvenation biotechnology and therapies that address the aging processes directly. That said, if you want to increase your chances of living long enough to see these therapies arrive, then exercise is the best option you have right now.

Literature

[1] Schnohr, P., Lange, P., Scharling, H., & Jensen, J. S. (2006). Long-term physical activity in leisure time and mortality from coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, and cancer. The Copenhagen City Heart Study. European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation, 13(2), 173-179.

[2] Jakovljevic, D. G. (2017). Physical activity and cardiovascular aging: Physiological and molecular insights. Experimental Gerontology.

[3] Naci, H., & Ioannidis, J. P. (2013). Comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions on mortality outcomes: metaepidemiological study. Bmj, 347, f5577.

[4] Lemez, S., & Baker, J. (2015). Do elite athletes live longer? a systematic review of mortality and longevity in elite athletes. Sports medicine-open, 1(1), 16.

[5] Fan, W., Waizenegger, W., Lin, C. S., Sorrentino, V., He, M. X., Wall, C. E., … & Auwerx, J. (2017). PPARδ Promotes Running Endurance by Preserving Glucose. Cell Metabolism, 25(5), 1186-1193.

[6] Dimitrov, S., Hulteng, E., & Hong, S. (2017). Inflammation and exercise: Inhibition of monocytic intracellular TNF production by acute exercise via β 2-adrenergic activation. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 61, 60-68.

About Michael Falk

Michael Falk is a communication specialist with 15 years of experience writing about healthcare and technology. He has been an advocate of longevity research since 2013, when he started his longevity blog Unggamma (www.unggammal.se).

About LIFE EXTENSION ADVOCACY FOUNDATION (LEAF)

In 2014, the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting increased healthy human lifespan through fiscally sponsoring longevity research projects and raising awareness regarding the societal benefits of life extension. In 2015 they launched Lifespan.io, the first nonprofit crowdfunding platform focused on the biomedical research of aging.

They believe that this will enable the general public to influence the pace of research directly. To date they have successfully supported four research projects aimed at investigating different processes of aging and developing therapies to treat age-related diseases.

The LEAF team organizes educational events, takes part in different public and scientific conferences, and actively engages with the public on social media in order to help disseminate this crucial information. They initiate public dialogue aimed at regulatory improvement in the fields related to rejuvenation biotechnology.