Category Archives: longevity

New Discovery by Longevity Researchers in Mice

Reverse aging in mice

Reverse aging in mice

Since one of the themes in our international mystery thriller Rabbit in the Moon is finding the secret of longevity, we’re always on the lookout for what’s new in longevity research.  

 In a study published online Jan. 31 in the journal Cell Reports,biologists reported a discovery about the aging process in mice might one day help efforts to develop treatments for age-related diseases in humans. The authors say they were able to turn back the “molecular clock” in old mice by placing a “longevity” gene called SIRT3 into their blood stem cells.

This gene  belongs to a class of proteins called sirtuins, which are known to regulate aging.

 When the gene was inserted into the blood stem cells of old mice, the formation of new blood cells was increased. 

 Principal investigator Danica Chen, an assistant professor of nutritional science and toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley says that this  is evidence of a reversal in the age-related decline in the old stem cells’ function.

 The finding “opens the door to potential treatments for age-related degenerative diseases,” Chen said.

 When we wrote our novel we were aware that researchers have been searching for the secret of longevity for decades. Although our story supposes that someone in China in 1989 had found the key to doubling man’s lifespan, as far as we know that was pure fiction.

 One of the obstacles for any scientist to succeed in this quest has been the understanding of the aging process.   Once assumed to be a purely random and uncontrolled process, it is now believed to be highly regulated and possibly even open to manipulation.

 “Studies have already shown that even a single gene mutation can lead to lifespan extension,” Chen said. “The question is whether we can understand the process well enough so that we can actually develop a molecular fountain of youth. Can we actually reverse aging? This is something we’re hoping to understand and accomplish.”

 So stay tuned. Scientists may find the secret yet!


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Filed under longevity, longevity research, Rabbit in the Moon by Deborah and Joel Shlian, Uncategorized

Still no “secret of longevity”

Since one of the premises in our novel “Rabbit in the Moon” is that a Chinese scientist in 1989 has actually found the secret of longevity, we are always interested in the results of current scientific research on the subject.

Starting in the 1980’s, researchers like the late Dr. Roy Walford  at UCLA, have hypothesized that eating a severely calorie restricted calories can prolong life. This was based on original work with rats done in the 1930’s. The idea became so popular, that many proponents of this theory began trying to extend their own lives by reducing their calorie intake to less than 1000 calories per day.

However, just last week, the results of a 25 year long National Institute on Aging sponsored project in which rhesus monkeys were fed diets restricting their calories by 30 percent as compared to a control group seems to have refuted this (at least in monkeys). The study, which was published online in the journal Nature showed that the skinny monkeys did not live any longer than those kept at more normal weights. Interestingly, monkeys put on the diet when they were older showed some improvement in lab tests such as cholesterol and blood sugar (males only) and triglycerides (both genders) However, the causes of death — cancer, heart disease — were the same in both the underfed and the normally fed monkeys.

Rafael de Cabo, lead author of the diet study, said he was surprised and disappointed because he had expected an outcome similar to that of a 2009 study from the University of Wisconsin which concluded that caloric restriction did extend monkeys’ life spans.

Unfortunately, in that Wisconsin project, the authors disregarded about half of the deaths among the monkeys studied, claiming they were not related to aging. If they had included all of the deaths, they would have had to conclude that there was no extension of life span.

The good news is that science prevails here – someone has a hypothesis; they set up an experiment to prove it; they publish the results regardless of the outcome (i.e. present the facts); and then other scientists try to replicate the study in order to be sure that the results are accurate.

Still, this does not mean that cutting calories to a reasonable level in order to improve health is not a good idea.

The researchers of this study plan to continue it until the youngest monkeys are 22 years old. While they recognize that the data seems to rule out any notion that a low-calorie diet will increase average life spans, they hope to find that the diet increases the animals’ maximum life span by keeping them healthier.

So stay tuned.

And in the meantime, read “Rabbit in the Moon” to learn Dr. NiFu Cheng’s secret of longevity!

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Does red wine really produce longevity?

When so much hope has been placed on the potential life prolonging effects of a substance in red wine called resveretrol, allegations that Dr. Dipak Das a University of Connecticut researcher had fabricated and falsified data in dozens of published papers is putting a damper on the work and upended plans for a December, 2012 international meeting.  Das is one of eight international experts on the scientific committee for the conference titled Resveretrol 2012 set for Lucknow, India.

Many of the now discredited papers asserted that resveretrol improves cardiovascular health. The university is in the process of dismissing Das and has already returned $890 000 of the federal research funding awarded to Das.

What appears to be an increase in fraud in medical research makes this story another sad commentary for those who believe in the sanctity of the scientific method. And for those who have taken up a daily glass or two of red wine to achieve longevity, well the real data is still out.


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Longevity may be in the genes

Living to 100 and beyond is likely more due to genes than even lifestyle. Or so says a new study published online last week in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine compared the lifestyle habits (eating, drinking and exercise) of almost 500 Ashkenazi Jews age 95 to 112 who were living on their own with over 1300 non-Hispanic whites age 65 to 74 from the general population.

The results indicated that the long lived men were less apt to be smokers, but that was not true for the women. And as far as diet and exercise, within both groups were people who were overweight, who consumed alcohol and who exercised very little.

This is a very small study to be sure, but it suggests that some people may be born with longevity genes that somehow overcome what experts consider to be less than optimal healthy lifestyles.

The rest of us should probably not give up on good habits like regular exercise or not smoking since other studies indicate that these do contribute to a longer life.  And of course, hope that a real longevity elixir like the one found in our novel “Rabbit in the Moon” becomes available soon.


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Audiobook version of “Rabbit in the Moon” a winner

Just announced: the Audiobook version of “Rabbit in the Moon” produced by Spoken Word Inc and narrated by nationally honored radio talk show host, Barbara Whitesides, won Honorable Mention at this year’s SF Book Festival.  Congrats to them all!! This just adds to the many awards the international thriller has already won including the Gold Medal for the Florida Book Award.

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Filed under longevity, SpokenWordInc, Uncategorized, Year of the Dragon

Life expectancy rises in the US

Good news! Without Dr. Ni-Fu Cheng’s immortality elixir (Rabbit in the Moon)  average life expectancy in the US has hit another high, rising above 78 years,  according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the same time, infant mortality has hit a record low of 6.42 deaths per 1000 live births which is almost a 3 percent drop from 2008. Boys born in 2009 can expect to at least until age 75.5 while girls will live to 80.5. Reasons for this increased longevity is felt to be a result of better medical treatment, improved vaccination rates and decreases in smoking.

Read Rabbit in the Moon in hardback, eBook and Audiobook

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Filed under Audiobook, life expectancy, longevity, Tiananmen massacre

“Rabbit in the Moon”: Downside of Longevity

We began formulating our plot for our thriller “Rabbit in the Moon” with two “what if” questions: 1) what if someone had discovered a way to increase the normal human lifespan and 2) who would want such a discovery and what might they do to get their hands on it.

When we conceived of this premise, we, like our character Dr. Ni Fu-Cheng assumed that an elixir extending longevity could only be positive for society.  However, as we and Ni-Fu learned, there is a definite downside to a population in which its “elder-share” (i.e. the proportion of people over 65 versus those who are younger) is very high.

The good news is that without our fictional elixir, lifespan in America have increased by an average of 30 years since 1900, so that males born in 2008 can expect to live to 75; females can expect to live to be 81. Centenarians (those over 100) are the fastest growing group in the US, having increased to 96,548 in 2009 from 38,300 in 1990, according to the Census Bureau.

And it’s not just the US that is experiencing increased longevity. People worldwide are living longer. Suddenly, the total number of seniors is expanding faster than the number of youngsters. Although currently the world is evenly divided between those under age 28 and those over 28, by 2050 half of individuals living in developed countries will be seniors over age 60, the other half, children under age 15.

If increased lifespan is the good news, what is the bad news? It is that most societies experiencing this sweeping demographic shift have not made the kinds of economic and policy adjustments required to adapt to this change. That’s especially true for the US.

How for example, do we deal with the cost of promised pensions and health benefits if the number of workers needed to finance these benefits is outnumbered by the seniors they have to support?

One of the consequences of aging is the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Experts estimate 115 million people worldwide living with this form of dementia by 2050. The cost of their care is soaring- just one of the budget busting negative consequences of increased longevity.

In “Rabbit in the Moon”, Dr. Ni-Fu Cheng worries about this very issue, asking his granddaughter Lili whether his elixir comes with a cost too high. “Even without the issue of overpopulation,” he tells her, “there is the question of the quality of those extra years. I have not found the key to immortality. Cells will still age. They’ll just do so more slowly. And for some individuals- say with Alzheimer’s disease or severe arthritis or terminal cancer-that means more years of suffering.” He also wonders about the loneliness of living without friends or family who have died before them.

Ultimately he decides that the world is not ready for his discovery.

In our real world, some countries like France are already curbing public benefits, raising the retirement age from 60 to 62, in order to maintain national solvency. One million people took to the streets in protest.  In the US, a few candidates running for office have suggested solutions from pension reform, changing the age of eligibility for Social Security age, to getting rid of Social Security altogether. The response from the electorate appears to be negative.

Bottom line: the cost of maintaining aging populations is a looming crisis that is not going away.

Michael W. Hodin, who is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations and researches aging issues said in the New York Times recently, that its solution “will require a mass-scale collaborative response akin to the Manhattan Project or the space race.”

So read “Rabbit in the Moon” and let us know what you think.

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