Comments From Cornwall

by John de Rivaz

Introduction:

This file contains the text of a monthly column that appeared in The Immortalist, a magazine published by The Immortalist Society <ettinger@aol.com>

Wherever possible source information has been given, and no additional information is usually available if you write in.

Microsoft CFO Quits for Telecom Job
Scientists Grow Frog Eyes and Ears
Twins May Age Differently
Scientists create 'DNA computer'
Lawyers Hold Back Implant Efficacy Studies
Scientists Map Viruses to Atoms
Drug Research Spending
Canada Issues Graphic Smoke Warning
Study Says Apples Help Breathing
Ethicists Bypassed in Organ Cloning Research
Study: Lyme Disease Treatments Claimed to be OK
Forearm Transplant Therapy Begins
Addictive Powers of Tobacco Examined
New MRI Scans Reveal Strokes
Genetic Liver Therapies Researched
Pet DNA Stored for Future Cloning
Pro-democracy Co. Links Web Sites
Medicalogic Seeks More Web Exposure
Funerals shown on the Internet
The Opposite of Minoxidil?
Laser Holes in Heart Ease Chest Pain
Few Heart Patients Taking Aspirin
Elan Corp Reduces the Level of Alzheimer's Amyloid Plaque
Saliva, Urine May Give Cancer Clues
Research: Genetic Errors Cause Aging
Britons Offer to Sell Kidney
Unwanted "Services" Are Also Unpopular Jobs
Preventing Pre Cancerous Polyps
Thai Transplant Docs Face Murder Charges
Chemical Prolongs Gehrig's Mice
An Ethicist's View of Life-extension
Report Finds Cancer Rates Declining
Preventing Alzheimer's Disease in At Risk Patients
Beecham's Have A Pill for Parkinson's Disease
Genomics to Be Used Against Diabetes
Letter to Comments from Cornwall
Human Genome Sciences
Life Expectancy Said to be Rising Faster
Boston University to Sell Heart Study Info
Cyberlabs for Pharmaceutical Research
Multiple Sclerosis Patients Denied Treatment
Mouse Brain Now Self Repairing
Study: Liver Cells From Bone Marrow
Diseases Said Biggest World Disaster
Study Examines Red Wine Antioxidant
EU: U.S. Can't Rule Out Mad Cow
Gates Blows Forty Million
Working Together to Defeat Alzheimer's Disease
Researchers Produce Nerve Cells
Human Cloning Urged in Cell Research
Tuberculosis Breakthrough Identified
An End to Anal Insertion of Scope Probes.
Fewer applying to med school
Protein Idendified as Alzheimer's Pathway
Controversial Transplant A Success
Cryolife Heart Valve progress
Gene May Affect Parkinson's Disease
Using Ultrasound to Battle Cancer
Study Heightens Worry About Germs
Heart Attacks Linked with Big Meals
France Bans T-bone Steaks

Microsoft CFO Quits for Telecom Job

This indicates trends for Life Extensionists

Greg Maffei, who managed huge software profits and a massive cash hoard as Microsoft Corp.'s chief financial officer, is quitting to head a telecommunications company, according to a news report late in December, 1999. Maffei, 39, is the latest in a string of high-level Microsoft executives who have quit to enjoy their wealth, families and to seek out even greener pastures.

It is interesting to note that such people quit to "enjoy their wealth, families and to seek out even greener pastures." It was once suggested that if life extension were to catch on the world would stagnate. The fact that intelligent people gravitate to the top and their intelligence then tells them to "enjoy their wealth, families and to seek out even greener pastures" suggests that there will always be a "furnace" in which young minds can push ever forward human progress in understanding the universe and applying their knowledge to make it a better place.

Scientists Grow Frog Eyes and Ears

Japanese researchers have grown frog eyes and ears in a lab using the animal's own embryo cells, technology a scientist said Monday could eventually help doctors replace lost or damaged human sensory organs using cells from the patients' bodies. Makoto Asashima, a biologist at prestigious Tokyo University, said the process is an alternative to transplants from other people. The team cultivated thousands of embryo cells in a retinoic acid solution for five days to produce the organs, he said.

Twins May Age Differently

Gwen Sirota and Gay Block are identical twins. When they hit age 60, they thought they still looked alike. After all, identical twins are supposed to age alike, aren't they? Then a plastic surgeon stunned them with side-by-side photographs: Despite having the same genes, Block actually looked like an older version of Sirota instead of a twin. Block, it turns out, loved to tan, baking on California beaches. She says she smoked marijuana and drank fairly heavily during a stressful period of the 1970s. Her twin never did any of that. So much for assuming that good genes are enough to fight the ravages of time.

Scientists create 'DNA computer'

Scientists have created a "DNA computer" from strands of synthetic DNA they coaxed into solving relatively complex calculations. The short-lived chemical computer has no immediate practical applications, but it nudges the fledgling technology of DNA computing further out of world of science fiction and into the realm of the possible, the University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers said. "It's kind of a non-automated computer - an abacus of sorts - but it's an approach we're confident can be automated like a conventional computer," said Lloyd Smith, a professor of chemistry.

Lawyers Hold Back Implant Efficacy Studies

Up to 25 million Americans are living with implanted medical devices, from pacemakers to artificial joints, but too many patients have unrealistic expectations of how long implants will last and don't even know what model is in their bodies, a scientific panel said 12 January 2000. Also, scientists are hampered in efforts to create better medical implants because too few of the devices are removed from patients' bodies - when they die or need a replacement - to study which lasted longest, worked best and was safest, said experts convened by the National Institutes of Health. One big reason: Fear of lawsuits if scientists point out a flaw to correct.

Scientists Map Viruses to Atoms

Scientists have discovered that two different but related viruses latch onto and infect human cells in similar ways, an insight that could help develop drugs to disarm viruses before they strike. The Purdue University team, working with scientists from State University of New York at Stony Brook, mapped the viruses down to the atomic level. They then compared the molecular blueprints of the viruses - one of which causes the common cold and the other, a form of polio. Viruses infect human cells by attaching to one of the tentacle-like appendages or "receptors" that protrude from the surface of the much larger cells.

Drug Research Spending

U. S. pharmaceutical companies expect to raise the amount they spend on research and development by 10.1% during 2000. That comes to $26.4 billion, or 20.3% of the total U. S. sales and exports of drugs. (California Technology Stock Newsletter)

The proportion of sales that is spent on research is an interesting ratio. I wonder where the remaining 79.7% is spent.

What are the production costs?

What is the amount that goes to the legal profession (including accountants)?

What is the amount that is actually paid to claimants for damages?

How much is paid in local and national government taxes?

How much is spend on shareholders' dividends?

Canada Issues Graphic Smoke Warning

With smokers jaded by written warnings, the Canadian government hopes graphic photos of diseased mouths, lungs and brains plastered on cigarette packages will shock them into kicking the habit. Health Minister Allan Rock announced new proposed regulations on 19 January 2000 that would require cigarette companies to cover 50 percent of each pack with colour photos of cigarette-damaged organs or the image of a drooping cigarette to symbolize impotence caused by smoking. Written warnings accompanying the images also would be graphic. One would say: "Warning: tobacco use can make you impotent. Cigarettes may cause sexual impotence due to decreased blood flow to the penis. This can prevent you from having an erection."

Study Says Apples Help Breathing

Eating at least five apples a week could help you breathe more easily, new research shows. The study, published this week in the British medical journal Thorax, found that men who ate nearly an apple a day had slightly stronger lung function than those who excluded the fruit from their diets. It is not clear why the apple-eaters could breathe more effortlessly, but fresh apples contain antioxidants, which experts believe may ward off disease by combatting oxygen's damaging effect on the body. Scientists have found that antioxidants have the same effect on women as on men.

As Life Extension Mix contain antioxidants as well, it would be interesting to observe whether people who use this product would also benefit for the consumption of apples or not.

Ethicists Bypassed in Organ Cloning Research

The scientists that cloned Dolly the Sheep are working on a new method to cut the need for human egg cells and cloned embryos, a magazine said on 26 January 2000. If successful, Geron BioMed's technique could remove a major ethical obstacle to using therapeutic cloning to repair cells or human organs damaged by disease, New Scientist reported. The research firm, launched by the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh where Dolly was cloned and now owned by U.S. biotechnology company Geron Corp, is already testing the technique on mouse and sheep cells.

Study: Lyme Disease Treatments Claimed to be OK

Patients who receive conventional treatment for Lyme disease have not reported more long-term health problems than those who never had the disease, a study has found. The findings should reassure patients and physicians that the prognosis for most of those with the disease who receive conventional treatment is excellent, said Dr. Elyse Seltzer, lead author of the study in Journal of the American Medical Association dated 2 February 2000.

The study observed 678 patients for up to 11 years, the largest long-run study of the effects of the disease. It focussed on cases reported to health officials from 1984 through 1991. While 69% of the patients reported an increased frequency of symptoms such as joint pain, fatigue and headaches, most patients attributed the increased symptoms to aging or other illness, such as a stroke.

I would query this - has anyone studied 678 people at random for 11 years and seen if 69% reported a similar spectrum of maladies?

Forearm Transplant Therapy Begins

A French man who received the world's first double forearm transplant after his arms were shattered in an explosion said 7 February 2000 he has recovered sensation below the spot where doctors attached the arms last month. Denis Chatelier spoke to reporters for the first time since he underwent the 17-hour transplant surgery at the Edouard Herriot hospital in Lyon on January 13. "I said to myself, Denis, be a fighter, and I've been fighting all the time," said the 33-year-old former marathon runner. Dressed in a hospital gown, Chatelier sat in a wheelchair with his heavily bandaged arms resting on wide, rubber foam supports. He later took a few steps with the aid of nurses, who held his arms slightly raised. The transplant patient's forearms were severed in 1996 when a handmade model rocket he was trying to launch exploded before takeoff.

I would comment that this work will contribute valuable knowledge for the time when laboratory grown limbs from the patients' own cells can be used.

Addictive Powers of Tobacco Examined

A report released on 8 February 2000 by a doctors' group confirmed that tobacco smoke can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. It called for the government to finance smokers' efforts to quit. The report by the tobacco advisory group of the Royal College of Physicians called for an aggressive advertising campaign and other government-funded programs to help people give up cigarettes. It said cigarettes should be regulated just as other drugs, by an independent committee with the power to restrict the number of additives and amount of nicotine in them. One in five deaths in Britain is caused by smoking, the report said, citing previous studies.

New MRI Scans Reveal Strokes

Super-sharp scanning machines are giving doctors a clear new window into the brains of stroke victims, revealing strokes that are missed three-quarters of the time by older scanners. The device is a kind of souped-up MRI machine that can pinpoint spots of dying tissue deep within the brain during the first hours of a stroke, when a blood clot somewhere in the head is choking off the oxygen supply. Until recently, diagnosing strokes was a leisurely affair, since doctors could do almost nothing for them. That changed about three years ago, when they learned that the clot-dissolving medicine TPA can reverse a stroke, just as it does a heart attack, if given within the first few hours of symptoms.

Genetic Liver Therapies Researched

Genetic manipulation of liver cells is pointing toward a promising new therapy that one day might offer hope for the 20 million Americans who suffer from liver disease. Laboratory experiments that restored normal function in rats that had lost 90% percent of their livers suggest that the genetic manipulation of cells grown in test tubes could rejuvenate failing liver functions. The study, to be published in the journal Science, found a way to grow millions of liver cells, called hepatocytes, and then transplant them into rats that had virtually no liver function. The new liver cells took over the job of the failing organ. "I have no idea when we could use it in humans" because the technique is still so experimental, said Dr. Philippe Leboulch of Brigham and Women's Hospital, the chief researcher on the study. But he said it offer the promise of one day helping stave off organ failure in patients waiting for a transplant. I would have though to remove the need for transplants might be a better aim for this and any research.

Sent 20 April, 2000

Pet DNA Stored for Future Cloning

Not long ago, Richard Denniston found himself suffering the same anguish that millions of other pet owners have faced. His little Scottish terrier had a brain tumor, and it would be only a matter of time before the dog died. Like most in his shoes, Denniston just wanted to end the pain. However, he took it one step further. An expert in mammalian reproductive physiology, Denniston collected a tiny skin sample from the dog and took it to his laboratory at Louisiana State University, where he cultured it and froze it in liquid nitrogen. From that idea, Denniston started Lazaron BioTechnologies, which will save pet DNA for $500, plus a monthly storage fee of $10, until cloning Fido becomes a reality.

Pro-democracy Co. Links Web Sites

Ask Robert Hansan if the Internet is improving democracy and you'll get an earful. "The Internet makes it easier and less intimidating to become politically active," Hansan, founder of Capitol Advantage, preached during an interview. "You can do it from the comfort of your home, on your own time." Hansan has reason to boost the Internet as a tool for democratic change: Since its founding 13 years ago, Capitol Advantage has grown to 55 employees - most of them hired in the past two years - by providing Web services that allow citizens to connect with government. Visitors to the Web sites of the more than 400 organizations that use the company's services - America Online, The New York Times, USA Today, League of Women Voters, National Rifle Association - can track votes cast by their elected officials or zing an e-mail to a congressman.

Medicalogic Seeks More Web Exposure

MedicaLogic is merging with Medscape in a bid to advance its goal of becoming the nation's premier Web destination for doctors and their patients. Hillsboro, Ore.-based MedicaLogic is also buying Total eMed, a Tennessee company that lets doctors dictate medical notes over the Web. Based on MedicaLogic's Tuesday closing price of $44 a share the company is paying $720 million for New York-based Medscape and $352 million for Total eMed. Last week, Healtheon/WebMD, the biggest of the health-care Internet companies, said it would buy its chief rival, CareInsite, and its parent for more than $5 billion in stock.

Funerals shown on the Internet

So far, Fred Fergerson hasn't had any takers for his new service. But just wait. Fergerson, a second-generation funeral director, is offering to broadcast funerals on the Internet. If that sounds like something out of the Twilight Zone, it really isn't. Fergerson said he decided to do it out of compassion - for loved ones and friends who cannot attend funeral services in person, so they won't feel left out. "I don't think there's going to be a big demand for it," said Fergerson, who is providing the service for free. "Nobody's doing it. To my knowledge, we're the only ones." Probably not for long. Fergerson said a New York City parlor is set to go online, and industry experts feel that others will follow.

The Opposite of Minoxidil?

Women who spend way too much time plucking, tweezing, waxing, zapping and shaving their facial hair may be in for some relief. Studies show an experimental prescription medication cream significantly slows facial hair growth on 70% of users. The drug is called Vaniqa, pronounced VAN-ih-kah, and it's produced jointly by Gillette Co., the world's biggest manufacturer of razors, and pharmaceutical maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. Vaniqa is under review by the Food and Drug Administration, and is expected to win approval by summer 2000 and hit the market by the fall.

Laser Holes in Heart Ease Chest Pain

Two new studies show that lasers threaded into the heart's main pumping chamber may offer relief for people with such bad heart disease that they often can barely walk. The question is why. "We are absolutely sure that we don't know what the mechanism of action is," Dr. Emerson Perin of the Texas Heart Institute said 12 March 2000. Perin and others presented their latest findings at a conference of the American College of Cardiology. The laser is among several new kinds of technology intended to help the sickest heart patients. Among other examples discussed at the meeting are gene therapy and radioactive probes to make angioplasty work better.

Few Heart Patients Taking Aspirin

Only about a quarter of the people who have heart disease and could benefit from taking aspirin are using the pain reliever, according to a report released in March 2000. Harvard Medical School's Dr. Randall Stafford, who led the study, said the findings suggest a substantial number of heart patients are risking more problems because they're not using aspirin. Regular use of aspirin as an effective circulatory therapy has proven to reduce the risk of blood clots that can trigger a heart attack. Aspirin also may help patients avoid strokes and protect them from angina, or severe chest pain. Asprin may cause health risks, including ulcers and allergic reactions.

Thinning the blood rather than trying to make arteries more open and relaxed may be the better and safer approach for treating some people with high blood pressure, according to a study released on 3 April, 2000. In a finding said to be significant enough that it was released ahead of its scheduled publication date, researchers said they had stopped using an artery-influencing drug, an alpha-blocker called doxazosin, in a large test because there was a "significantly reduced" risk of death when a diuretic, called chlorthalidone, was used. (no source reference given)

Elan Corp Reduces the Level of Alzheimer's Amyloid Plaque

Elan Corp said in March 2000 it had received approval to start Phase 1 clinical studies in Britain of its Betabloc treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Elan said the studies would take around a year to complete. The company said animal tests showed Betabloc prevented the build-up and reduced the level of amyloid plaque in the brains of mice engineered to replicate the plaque deposits that characterise Alzheimer's disease. Amyloid plaque is considered by many scientists to be one of the main causes of Alzheimer's. The company is already carrying Phase 1 studies on Betablock in the United States.

Saliva, Urine May Give Cancer Clues

Simple saliva and urine tests could one day replace complicated biopsies in detecting the presence of at least some types of cancer, a new study indicates. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore report in Science of 17 March 2000 that cancer-related changes in a part of human cells called mitochondria can be detected in related body fluids. For example, the team was able to detect bladder cancer by testing urine from cancer victims, and saliva showed changes associated with head and neck cancer. Lung fluids also showed changes related to lung cancer, though that test was somewhat more complicated, said Dr. David Sidransky of the research team.

Research: Genetic Errors Cause Aging

A failure of quality control in genes may be the underlying reason for the physical decline that inevitably accompanies aging, according to new research. In a study published 31 March 2000 in the journal Science, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., said that a survey of 6,000 genes uncovered at least 61 that go through dramatic changes from the age of 9 to 90. Dr. Richard A. Lerner, a co-author of the study, said he believes it is these genetic changes that imprint the body with the typical signals of aging - gray hair, wrinkled skin, weaker muscles and brittle bones. Lerner said the study eventually could lead to finding ways of controlling the aging process.

Britons Offer to Sell Kidney

Dozens of people have offered to sell one of their kidneys to an ailing lottery millionaire who remarked that he would swap his new fortune for a healthy kidney. The offers - illegal under British law - have provoked outrage from health groups. Mick Taylor, 26, won $6.5 million in the National Lottery. He has suffered from kidney disease since he was 11 and has had two kidney transplants that failed. He undergoes renal dialysis three times a week. Taylor said at a lottery news conference Wednesday that he would willingly exchange his new wealth for a new kidney.

I do not consider it is a good idea to make the sale of organs from live donors legal, but I also consider it inconsistent that the medical and legal professions accept as permissible that donations of organs from live people who get nothing in return. It is an insoluble freedom issue - should people have the freedom to donate parts of their livers or whatever to friends and relations or even complete strangers? If society considers that such a freedom is valid, then the problem exists that emotional blackmail can be and is used to facilitate the harvesting of such material.

Unwanted "Services" Are Also Unpopular Jobs

Federal workers who help explore space or protect the environment are among the most satisfied with their jobs, while those who enforce immigration and food safety rules are the least happy. Overall, 60% of federal employees say they are very or somewhat satisfied with their jobs, according to a US government survey released 31 March 2000. That compares with about 62% in similar private sector surveys, federal officials said. The highest satisfaction scores went to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at 78%, even though it suffered numerous setbacks to its Mars program.

This suggests that pressure on employees of regulatory agencies or professions who are enforcing regulations that prevent or hinder life extension or cryopreservation (or increase the costs thereof) is worthwhile. If the pressure is not directed at individuals as people so much as suggesting that they may find other work, it is moving in the direction of an existing trend.

Preventing Pre Cancerous Polyps

Monsanto Co and Pfizer Inc said 30 March 2000 they will begin a new study to assess the efficacy of their anti-arthritis blockbuster Celebrex in preventing the polyps that can lead to colon cancer. The study, which will compare Celebrex to a placebo, will be conducted in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute at medical centres across the United States.

I would comment that this is not a signal for life extenders to add Celebrex to their already numerous collection of pills, unless there is some clinical reason or a family history of polyps. In any case, always seek professional advice before using prescription medicines - they are powerful high technology products that do need to be treated with respect.

Thai Transplant Docs Face Murder Charges

Three doctors and a former hospital executive already penalized for ethical breaches involving a series of kidney transplants now face murder charges, Thai police said 5 April 2000. Police issued subpoenas for the four Wednesday on two charges of conspiracy to commit murder after a commission found that they had not followed proper procedures in declaring organ donors brain dead. Conspiracy to commit murder carries the death penalty. In February, Thailand's Medical Council revoked the license of one doctor and suspended those of four others at the hospital after finding that they had illegally traded in human organs.

This is an interesting story in relation to the possibility of cryonics patients being autopsied. The definition of death is perhaps something cryonicists ought to be talking about on the Internet newsgroups, possibly without even mentioning cryonics. If society adopted a definition nearer to that proposed by cryonicists, it could then be used to make arguments against official interference with cryopreservations.

Chemical Prolongs Gehrig's Mice

An experimental chemical significantly prolonged the lives of mice with Lou Gehrig's disease by blocking an enzyme crucial for cell death, a finding that holds promise not just for this killer but for other nervous-system diseases that afflict millions. The research at Harvard Medical School may boost efforts already under way by half a dozen drug companies to create "caspase inhibitors" safe enough to test in people. The new findings "provide a compelling argument...for the value of caspase inhibitors," Mark Gurney of the Pharmacia Corp., one drug maker hunting such compounds, wrote in a review accompanying the research in Friday's edition of the journal Science. Some 30,000 Americans have Lou Gehrig's disease, formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. No one knows the cause, but it results in a creeping paralysis as neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain and spinal cord that control movement are slowly destroyed.

An Ethicist's View of Life-extension

This little gem appeared in The Daily Telegraph around 10 April - not sure of the date, the chap that gave me the cutting left it off.

It is interesting that it appeared about the same time as the David Irving trial concerning "holocaust denial" and news items in the UK of elderly people being denied health care. [How Irving can be serious is beyond me, unless he simply wants to sell books by being controversial.]

It would be ironic if the human species survives political conflict only to exterminate itself by a war between the generations. Hardly likely in my viewpoint, but events like this are possible even if not very probable.

Why science may bring curse of immortality

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Better treatment of disease could lead to "generational cleansing" as people live longer, an ethical expert warns today. The elderly could be condemned to death by suicide or euthanasia after an allotted lifespan as medical advances raise the maximum age beyond 120, according to Dr John Harris, professor of bioethics at Manchester University. Prof Harris said a side-effect of research to treat the diseases of old age, such as dementia, cancer and arthritis, could be to extend the maximum age to immortality.

He writes in the journal Science: "New research now allows a glimpse into a world in which ageing - and even death - may no longer be inevitable." The ability to grow replacement cells and tissues by therapeutic cloning could aid the process. This "creeping longevity" would have profound implications for what we mean by the sanctity of human life, a debate that has already started with technologies such as in-vitro fertilisation. The benefits of extended life expectancy would mostly be felt in technologically advanced societies. There were many reasons why society would not want one everlasting generation, competing with the young for jobs, space and other resources. They included the desire to procreate, the pleasures of children and advantages of new people and new ideas.

But this could lead to a future in which people might be driven to a form of "generational cleansing", said Prof Harris, who is also a member of the Government's Human Genetics Commission. Society would have to make compromises, for instance by deciding that when individuals have had "a fair innings" they must die, either by suicide, euthanasia or even by reactivating the ageing process.

This would be difficult to envisage. He said: "How could a society resolve deliberately to curtail healthy life while maintaining a commitment to sanctity of life? The contemplation of making sure that people who wish to go on living cannot do so is terrible indeed." The consequence could be a society where people are offered the chance of a long life, if they have no children, or where people who reproduce might be required to forfeit their right to medical care.

He said: "However, reproductive liberty is a powerful right protected by international conventions." He said it was unlikely that we could stop the progression to longer lifespans and even immortality. "We should start thinking now about how we can live decently and creatively with the prospect of such lives."

Previous work has shown that even if cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses are cured, average expectancy is unlikely to exceed 85. However, work in a range of species has raised the possibility that genetic engineering could extend the lifespan by reducing the ageing rate.

Images of early universe revealed

The first detailed images of the embryonic universe suggest the cosmos will expand forever and not someday collapse upon itself, according to new research on the Big Bang published 27 April 2000. Observations from a balloon-borne telescope that circumnavigated Antarctica largely match predictions and suggest scientists are on the right track in their understanding of the earliest moments of the universe, its composition and ultimate fate. "It is an incredible triumph of modern cosmology to have predicted their basic form so accurately," said Andrew Lange of the California Institute of Technology and U.S. team leader of the $4 million international project dubbed "Boomerang."

Friedman's comment re-enforces what I have been saying about legalism for decades.

Dr. Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate economist, on the Microsoft case: "Recent events dealing with the Microsoft suit certainly support the view I expressed a year ago - that Silicon Valley is suicidal in calling government in to mediate in the disputes among some of the big companies in the area and Microsoft. The money that has been spent on legal manoeuvres would have been much more usefully spent on research in technology. The loss of the time spent in the courts by highly trained and skilled lawyers could certainly have been spent more fruitfully. Overall, the major effect has been a decline in the capital value of the computer industry, Microsoft in particular, but its competitors as well. They must rue the day that they set this incredible episode in operation."

This partly re-iterates what I have been saying in this column for decades about legalism generally. With a simple Ten Commandments type of legal system with a strong right to property there may be different losers to the present arrangements but there would still be losers. But progress would be faster. Faster technological development would mean that more people could have the advantages of advanced technology. This is particularly true in medical matters, where efficient practitioners require similar skills to lawyers - the ability to remember and process vast amounts of descriptive material. I contend that the brain drain to the legal profession is damaging other professions. Overall, I suggest that there would be fewer losers with a simpler legal system.

Report Finds Cancer Rates Declining

Progress is being made in the war against cancer with fewer Americans getting or dying from the disease, in part because of reduced lung smoking and early detection, according to a new study. Researchers found that the incidence rate - the number of new cancer cases per 100,000 people per year - for all cancers combined declined on average 0.8% per year between 1990 and 1997. "These findings underscore the remarkable progress we've made against cancer," Dr. Richard Klausner, the director of the National Cancer Institute, said in a statement. The study was released 14 May 2000 by the NCI, the American Cancer Society, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Preventing Alzheimer's Disease in At Risk Patients

Years before they show symptoms of dementia, people with the "Alzheimer's gene" have subtle changes in their brains, researchers said on 15 May 2000. Aricept, developed by Japanese drug company Eisai and sold by Pfizer Inc, has been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer's in some people. A clinic run by Dr. Gary Small, an Alzheimer's expert and professor of psychiatry at the University of California Los Angeles, is testing various drugs to see if they can prevent Alzheimer's in people diagnosed as high-risk. The first being tested is Celebrex, marketed by Pfizer and Pharmacia Corp.

Beecham's Have A Pill for Parkinson's Disease

The early stages of Parkinson's disease, the progressive neurological disorder whose victims include actor Michael Fox and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, should be treated with a new drug before turning to the standard treatment of levodopa, according to a study. Researchers report in 18 May's New England Journal of Medicine that the early stages of the disease "can be managed successfully for up to five years with a reduced risk" of muscle freezing by first using the drug Ropinirole "and supplementing it with levodopa if necessary." Smithkline Beecham PLC which makes Ropinirole under the name Requip, paid for the study.

Genomics to Be Used Against Diabetes

Metabolex Inc., a privately held development stage pharmaceutical company, said on 18 May 2000 it entered a five year collaboration agreement with Warner Lambert to use genomics to find treatments for type 2 diabetes. This collaboration, which could have a value of $50 million before any products come to market, is to find drugs that treat diabetes by counteracting insulin resistance. Metabolex will receive substantial research funding from Warner-Lambert, including an upfront license fee and an equity investment, as well as milestone payments according to the accomplishment of specific research objectives.

Letter to Comments from Cornwall

Dear Mr. de Rivaz:

I read your comments in The Immortalist on the trend towards mid-life retirement for Microsoft executives as evidence that a society of long-lived people wouldn't necessarily stagnate. Of course, these people could be retiring under current conditions because they no longer have the stamina in their 40's to handle 18-hour workdays. With rejuvenation, that might not be the case.

What I find even more significant, however, is the banality of the goals of these people. They're generally smarter than 99% percent of the population, usually display a lifelong interest in science fiction, science and technology, and possess a vast claim on the resources of society -- yet they don't seem to be lining up to solve the aging-and-dying problem. Microsoft's Nathan Myhrvold, for example, has stated that he plans to spend his time fly-fishing and digging for dinosaurs. Another one I read about plans to practice his bowling.

I find this lack of vision discouraging, especially since the pieces of the solution to death are popping up here and there, but no one with wealth and demonstrated entrepreneurial ability is stepping forward to organize the effort.

Trans-millennially yours,

Mark Plus

Comment

I couldn't agree more about the banality. I suppose that many of these people are organisation men at heart and have a love of the system. I cannot blame them for this, as it is the very system that has given them the substrate in which to build their empires. Nevertheless, it would take an almost Einsteinian leap of thought for them to realise that the system will still cut them up and burn or rot them when the medical profession can do nothing more from them and yet the science and technology exists for there to be a chance of avoiding such a fate. It may well be that many of these people have had a lot of luck and only a little more ability and stamina than the average. They have been in the right place at the right time.

It is interesting in this context to note that Microsoft executives have denied rumours that they are going to relocate outside the US legal system to avoid the break up of their company. It would be in line with Lord Rees-Mogg's ideas if governments round the world would try to entice the company away from the US. I can envisage a sort of auction where many jurisdictions would compete for this company that would bring wealth employment and prosperity to their people. If this happened, and the US economy suffered as a result, I would suspect that this would herald the end of the US legal profession as we know it. The profession would still exist, but it would have a much lower profile.

Human Genome Sciences

Merrill Lynch analyst Todd Nelson raised his rating on Human Genome Sciences on 5 June 2000 to long-term buy from long-term accumulate. -- "Over the next twelve months, we expect significant news flow related to the company's development pipeline and new potential collaborations," Nelson wrote in a research note. -- "Fundamentals underlying HGS' prospects are increasingly positive and we expect the company to continue to increase shareholder value," he wrote.

This growth is part of the growth in technology around which the whole idea of cryopreservation is based. It is a shame that fear of litigation and other financial authoritarianism prevent so many cryonicists from benefiting from this growth and instead of investing their money, spend it on life insurance. It is frequently those who need their relatively small amount of money to work the hardest who are driven down the insurance route.

Life Expectancy Said to be Rising Faster

Life expectancy in major industrialized nations is increasing faster than their governments are predicting, which could strain pension plans and other programs in those countries, a U.S. researcher says. If residents live as long as the researchers predict, it will push the "dependency ratio" - the ratio of those over 65 to working people - from 6% higher in Britain to 40% higher in Japan by 2050. The dependency ratio in the United States is now 22 residents over age 65 to every resident age 20 to 64, and should increase to nearly .40 by 2050, said researcher Shripad Tuljapurkar. Life expectancy estimates are important for governments trying to determine how much money to set aside for pensions, health programs and other social spending for the aged.

Boston University to Sell Heart Study Info

Boston University has struck a deal that would allow a new company to sell analyses of data from the university's Framingham Heart Study, pioneering research into heart attacks and strokes that has been going on for more than half a century. The study has amassed a huge collection of genetic, clinical and behavioural data from the 10,000 participants, all families from the western Boston suburb. The university will own 20% of the new company, Framingham Genomic Medicine Inc. Venture capitalists have committed $21 million to form the company. University spokesman David Lampe said 16 June 2000 the company would sell analyses of the data, not the data itself, which is already free to researchers.

Cyberlabs for Pharmaceutical Research

Eli Lilly said 13 June 2000 it formed e-Lilly, a new unit to define and implement the use of Internet technology and new business models. Lilly said the new organization will address pharmaceutical discovery research, clinical development, human resources, procurement, sales and marketing and supply chain management. Opportunities includes Web-based networking and information processing to allow online "cyberlabs," electronic markets for alternative molecules that may be new drug candidates, as well as customer relationship management. Lilly named Newt Crenshaw as vice president of e-Lilly. He is currently vice president of sales and marketing for Lilly's primary care and neuroscience areas.

Multiple Sclerosis Patients Denied Treatment

Thousands of British multiple sclerosis patients may not get free access to a drug which sufferers say improves their lives because a government advisory body considers it too expensive the BBC reported. It said a preliminary ruling from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended against offering beta interferon on the National Health Service because other treatments were more cost effective. The drug is already produced by Biogen Inc and Chiron Corp of the United States Germany's Schering Plough and Switzerland's Ares-Serono.

Mouse Brain Now Self Repairing

Scientists have managed to make new neurons grow in an area of the brain once thought to lack the ability to regenerate raising hopes of developing new ways of treating neurological diseases and head injuries. The researchers induced the creation of the neurons in the neocortex of lab mice by triggering stem cells or precursor cells that already exist in the brain. Other research has shown that under specific conditions transplanted stem cells can form new neurons. The new study indicates that transplantation may not be needed. Instead a combination of molecular signals can accomplish the same thing said Dr. Jeffrey Macklis a neuroscience professor at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital who led the study. The researchers were encouraged to find that the new cells showed evidence that they were incorporated into the brain circuitry.

Study: Liver Cells From Bone Marrow

Liver cells have been found to come from an unlikely source - bone marrow - raising the possibility that people with hepatitis and other liver diseases could somehow use their own cells to heal themselves a new study found. The study also increases the understanding of stem cells: free-agent cells in the body that scientists believe have the capacity to convert into several kinds of organ cells. "This breaks all the boundaries we're taught in medical school. This isn't supposed to happen said researcher Dr. Neil Thiese. Organs are separate things - they work together but one does not become the other - that's always how we've looked at it." The study by Thiese from the New York University School of Medicine and Dr. Diane Krause from the Yale School of Medicine was published in June 2000 in the journal Hepatology.

Diseases Said Biggest World Disaster

Earthquakes and other natural disasters may have captured donations and headlines but preventable diseases killed far more people - 13 million people in 1999 according to a report published 28 June 2000 by the Red Cross. An estimated 150 million people have died from AIDS tuberculosis and malaria alone since 1945 compared to 23 million in wars said the World Disasters Report issued by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Last year 160 times more people died from AIDS malaria respiratory diseases and diarrhea than the number killed by natural disasters including the massive earthquakes in Turkey floods in Venezuela and Indian cyclones it added.

Yes but how many people died of ageing or complications thereof eg cancer heart disease and so on?

Study Examines Red Wine Antioxidant

Researchers believe they have unlocked the mystery of how an antioxidant found in grapes and red wine fights cancer. A study published 29 June 2000 concludes that the compound resveratrol which acts like an antibiotic to protect grapes from fungus may turn off a protein that guards cancer cells from cancer-fighting therapies such as chemotherapy. The research may one day allow the compound itself to be used in cancer prevention and treatment said Minnie Holmes-McNary a nutritional biologist at the University of North Carolina's medical school in Chapel Hill.

Cancer Drug Gene Therapy Promising

A combination of gene therapy and drugs is showing promise in treating head and neck cancers researchers in Texas report. If borne out in further trials the findings could point the way to more effective treatment of almost 500 000 people who suffer head and neck cancers annually. Scientists at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic in Houston report that the combination therapy caused tumours to shrink in 25 of 30 patients tested. Their findings are reported in the August issue of the journal Nature Medicine. Cancerous tumours some as large as 2 1/2 inches disappeared in eight patients the scientists reported. In others the tumours shrank by up to half.

EU: U.S. Can't Rule Out Mad Cow

Cases of mad cow disease are unlikely to occur in the United States and Canada but cannot be ruled out according to a European Union report released 1 August 2000. The report studied the risks of the cattle ailment - bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE - spreading beyond the nine European nations with confirmed cases. "It is still unlikely but cannot be excluded that BSE is present in the USA and Canada said a European Union statement on the report. The European Union's Scientific Steering Committee found that mad cow disease is uncertain but likely" in Italy Spain and Germany where no domestic cases have been found.

BBC News has been covering a report which suggests dental surgeons could be spreading the disease amongst their patients. A spokesman for the British Dental Association said that there was no reason to suppose that routine treatment could spread the disease however root canal fillings could have an element of risk. He said that an urgent study was being performed to assess this. If even a small risk was there the Association would recommend that its members destroy all instruments used for root canal fillings after a single use. However this would increase costs.

Gates Blows Forty Million

A foundation set up by Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates has given $40 mln to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for a five-year programme to fight malaria. Professor Geoffrey Targett the dean of the school said on 31 July 2000 the money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would be used to test new vaccines insecticides and drugs against the mosquito-borne disease that kills millions of people each year. The gift was announced just one week after the Group of Eight powerful nations announced their commitment to reduce the burden of malaria by 50% by 2010.

A pity he can't spare 1/10 of this for cryopreservation research or for that matter to fund the cryopreservation of himself family and friends.

Working Together to Defeat Alzheimer's Disease

Elan Corp and Pharmacia Corp said in August 2000 they would work together on research to develop a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. The tie-up complements a deal earlier this year with American Home Products which is aimed at developing a vaccine for Alzheimer's a progressive brain disease mainly affecting the elderly. Elan and Pharmacia said they would combine their scientific resources and intellectual property and share all costs and revenues involved in the project.

Researchers Produce Nerve Cells

Scientists have been able to produce nerve cells in the lab by using stem cells drawn from bone marrow a breakthrough that could help people with Alzheimer's disease Parkinson's disease or spinal-cord injuries. If the findings are borne out they might one day enable doctors to take cells from a patient's bone marrow turn them into nerve cells and then inject them into patients' brains and spinal cords replacing injured cells. The research conducted at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and MCP Hahnemann University in Philadelphia was funded in part by the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. An account of the research was published 31 July in the Journal of Neuroscience Research based in Los Angeles.

Human Cloning Urged in Cell Research

The British government said on 2 August that it would introduce legislation to amend a ban on human cloning to allow scientific research on embryo cells raising the possibility Britain could be the first country to authorize cloning from humans. The move which does not endorse creating cloned babies came in response to a report published by a government-commissioned panel led by the country's chief medical officer. "We're talking about research at this stage not treatment Dr. Liam Donaldson the medical officer cautioned. There is major major medical potential but we need medical research to see whether this potential can be realized." While many countries are working on laws to ban human cloning several others are considering the prospect of allowing its limited use for research into the treatment of disease. Ethical concerns have worked against those suffering from relevant conditions in many countries.

Tuberculosis Breakthrough Identified

Scientists have identified a key trick that tuberculosis bacteria use to lie low in the body for years before going on the attack - a discovery that could open a whole new approach to fighting a disease that exterminates more than 2 million people around the world each year. "In terms of public health there is a long way to go. This is an important step in the right direction said Dr. William Bishai professor of international health and medicine at Johns Hopkins University. Researchers from Rockefeller University Washington University School of Medicine Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Texas A&M University reported their findings in Nature dated 3 August.

Vatican Slams Embryo Cell Research

The Vatican condemned research using cells from human embryos as gravely immoral" on 24 August a day after the Clinton administration allowed federal funding for stem cell research. A good end doesn't make good an action that in itself is bad the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life wrote noting that removing cells would kill an embryo. The Roman Catholic church teaches that life begins at conception and must be safeguarded from that point. The Catholics failed to note that the particular embryo would never have been brought to term if the research had not been done.

From a strictly logical point of view of doing God's will they could arguably be correct but if they want to do God's will and nothing else they should not wearing clothes live in houses and so on. If God specifically designed the universe to include diseases aging and suffering then it is thwarting him to avoid these things. However it seems highly unlikely that the universe is designed in every specific detail. Instead if it is designed at all it is set up to run using evolution and the conscious changing of things (eg using clothes and housing to live in temperate and arctic areas of the planet and operating a medical profession) is not thwarting creation but is part of a continuing process. There was a step of life from single celled organisms to multi-celled organisms from the oceans to land from the land to the air and from reactionary action to intelligence. There will also be a step from age limited life-forms to ageless life forms - that is seen initially as medicine and ultimately in life-extension (and its tool cryopreservation).

President Clinton praised stem cell research saying it offers "potentially staggering benefits" for a wide variety of medical conditions. New guidelines were announced 23 August allowing federal funding for research with stem cells removed from embryos. It does not allow research on the embryos themselves.

An End to Anal Insertion of Scope Probes.

An Israeli company is ready to start testing its "video pill" - a tiny video camera that monitors human intestines - on patients. The M2A Swallowable Imaging Capsule transmits two images a second. Designers for Given Imaging used their training in Israel's military industries to design the two chips - a sensor and a transmitter - that are the basis of the device. The video-quality images are picked up by a Walkman-sized receiver worn on a belt around the waist and are then loaded onto a hard disk and examined by a doctor.

Fewer applying to med school

The number of applicants to the nation's 125 medical schools fell for the third consecutive year in 1999 an American Medical Association annual survey shows. The 38 529 applicants for last year's freshman class was down 6% from 1998 when there were 41 004 applicants. The survey did not address possible reasons for the decline though others have suggested the nation's strong economy may be attracting potential applicants to other fields. Despite the downward trend the authors noted that the number of applicants in 1999 was still far higher than in the late 1980s when there were fewer than 27 000 applicants.

I would comment that the law requires similar skills and gives greater remuneration with less risk of being branded a villain if something goes wrong.

Protein Idendified as Alzheimer's Pathway

A newly identified protein that may be essential to early development and maintenance of the brain and other cells may also contribute to Alzheimer's disease late in life. "It's rather poetic really - what makes you in the first place sort of does you in said Peter St. George-Hyslop of the University of Toronto who reported the finding in 7 September's issue of the journal Nature. The protein which St. George-Hyslop and fellow Canadian researchers named nicastrin binds itself to another protein called presenilin which is suspected of triggering the formation of deadly plaques or buildups in brain cells causing Alzheimer's.

This goes to support the idea that ageing is a cumulation of side effects from the processes that make life. However removal of the protein when no longer needed could be a step in extending healthy lifespan.

Scientists Find New Obesity Gene

Australian scientists have identified a new gene responsible for controlling appetite in humans - a discovery experts said could lead to the first gene-based drug to treat obesity and diabetes. Greg Collier a professor of microbiology at Deakin University in Melbourne discovered the gene while researching diabetes in Israeli desert rats. The gene which he called Beacon cranks up the appetite and the rat version is identical to the human one. The find presented 19 September 2000 at a conference of the European Society for the Study of Diabetes is the third gene linked to obesity after leptin and NPy. The discovery of the gene located on chromosome 19 is scheduled to be published in the journal Diabetes in October.

Scientists Explore Feeling Emotion

Scientists have found new evidence that people feel emotions like sadness or anger in much the same way they feel heartburn - by monitoring what's going on within their bodies. The idea is that an emotion triggers changes in a person's body including the brain and that the brain in turn monitors these changes. That monitoring produces the sensation of feeling an emotion. This general idea has been around since the 19th century and an expanded version is presented in the 1999 book The Feeling of What Happens by Dr. Antonio Damasio of the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City. In the October issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience Damasio and colleagues present a brain-scanning study that supports it.

Food Poisoning a Tumour Threat?

The person who contaminated you with food poisoning and made you wretchedly ill for a couple of days might also give you trouble long after you've forgotten about it. In fact he may have condemned you to a long lingering death. Researchers are finding that there might a reason to think food poisoning could be linked to cancer.

Yale University scientists have found that certain bacteria including the most common cause of food poisoning kill intestinal cells by scrambling their genetic instructions during replication. While no evidence exists yet to support the claim the researchers speculate that this deadly mechanism might pose a cancer risk for organisms including people infected by germs that use it.

The notion isn't unheard of: Chronic infection with Helicobacter pylori a leading cause of ulcers in humans is believed to increase the risk of at least one form of gastric tumour.

The study which appears in Science for the week ending 14 October 2000 focussed on Campylobacter jejuni the most common form of bacterial food poisoning in the United States.

Campylobacter causes 10 000 reported cases of food poisoning a year in the United States but is believed to be linked to as many as 2 million sickenings health officials say.

The bacterium which is picked up through contact with raw or undercooked poultry leads to severe diarrhea and while it's generally not fatal the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still says that up to 500 people a year are killed by campylobacter infections.

Campylobacter belongs to a group of bugs that produce a poison called CDT. Other members of this clan include strains of Escherichia coli and shigella both causes of other food-borne illness. Scientists have long known about CDT and its ability to destroy gastrointestinal cells particularly epithelial or lining tissue. But they haven't understood precisely how the toxin works.

Scientists will have trouble connecting the germ with tumours since campylobacter and most other gut-loving pathogens tend to have short tenures in the intestines before they're flushed out. On the other hand there is some evidence from animal models that even self-limiting diarrheal disease if it occurs at time of exposure to carcinogens might increase the risk of cancer later in life.

Scientists Revive Ancient Bacteria

Bacteria that lived before the dinosaurs and survived Earth's biggest mass extinction have been reawakened after a 250-million-year sleep in a salt crystal scientists say. The bacteria's age easily beats longevity records set by other organisms revived from apparent suspended animation. Paul Renne a geologist at the University of California at Berkeley said The idea of having a living glimpse of what life looked like 250 million years ago is pretty spectacular."

If scientists of the early 21st century can be bothered to revive preserved bacteria then they will surely be very interested in what the cryonicists are preserving.

Controversial Transplant A Success

Doctors declared success on 18 October 2000 in the groundbreaking case of an ailing 6-year-old girl who received a transplant of umbilical cord blood from her made-to-order baby brother. Molly Nash of Englewood Colo. received the blood three weeks previously in hopes it would save her life. The girl suffers from Fanconi anemia a rare genetic disorder that prevented her body from making bone marrow. Dr. John Wagner of the University of Minnesota said tests showed the transplant is working. He said the infused cells are taking over the functions of Molly's bone marrow making platelets and disease-fighting white blood cells

Cryolife Heart Valve progress

Cryolife Inc said it received European certification for its heart-valve product. The pulmonary heart valve called SynerGraft is made using porcine heart valves stripped of much of their pig heart cells engineered to adapt to the human patient. CryoLife received "CE" product certification to market the product in the European Union. This shows how cryobiological technology is part or ordinary science and technology and can produce benefits that would appeal to the mass of "ordinary" people.

Gene May Affect Parkinson's Disease

A gene transferred to the brains of monkeys was able to control symptoms of Parkinson's disease in an experiment that experts say offers "promise" for human patients. The gene therapy technique used a virus that had been linked to a gene that prompts production in the brain of dopamine a chemical neurotransmitter. The loss of dopamine is thought to be the cause of Parkinson's disease. Three monkeys with chemically induced Parkinson's disease were restored to near normal by the gene said Jeffrey H. Kordower first author of a study appearing on 27 October in the journal Science. Parkinson's disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects cells that make dopamine. The loss of dopamine causes the classic Parkinson's symptoms: trembling slow and stiff movement of limbs a halting walk speech difficulties and loss of balance. Cause of the disease is unknown. It affects about 1.2 million Americans.

Using Ultrasound to Battle Cancer

Vicki Freeman lay perfectly still inside a tube-like machine as ultrasound waves beamed deep into her cancerous breast. Little bursts of heat signalled the beams were cooking her tumour to death - without a mark or cut to her skin. Freeman is one of the first women to try a novel medical experiment to see if this "focussed ultrasound therapy" might one day offer a noninvasive alternative to breast cancer surgery. It will take years of study to prove whether cooking tumours works. But as women already clamour for less disfiguring breast surgery pilot experiments at Houston's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Boston's Brigham & Women's Hospital signal the latest in a growing trend: research on ways to make cancer removal not just less invasive but to quit cutting patients altogether. But some surgeons are asking: Are doctors trying to make tumour removal too minimal particularly for diseases like breast cancer where surgery can work very well?

Study Heightens Worry About Germs

It is not only air travel that threatens world heath according to a report from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Hordes of microorganisms including viruses and bacteria that may harm people or marine life sail into U.S. ports from abroad every year in the ballast water that keeps ships stable a study says. It suggests that microorganisms may pose a greater danger than bigger known invaders in ballast water like mussels. The research is likely to intensify the push for more restrictions on dumping ballast water near the shore. "We need to broaden our focus and think of the smaller organisms that are clearly many orders of magnitude more abundant and can be potentially as potent and may be much more difficult to remove said marine ecologist Gregory Ruiz who led the study at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater Md. The researchers whose findings were published in thes issue of the journal Nature for 2 November 2000 took samples of ballast water from 15 seagoing ships in Chesapeake Bay off Virginia and Maryland.

Report Out on People 55 and Over

Young men have a problem - young women prefer slightly older men so if you are aged under about 25 and male you have a hard time finding a companion. But the male sex gets its revenge in the end. Men who reach old age find a large surplus of women to chose from - as long as they aren't looking for meal tickets.

Women comprise more than two-thirds of impoverished Americans ages 55 and over and their percentage only increases among older age brackets the Census Bureau says. Those numbers are in large part because women have longer life expectancies than men analysts caution. Still the Census report on Americans age 55 and over being 1 November 2000 again spotlights the greater economic vulnerability of older women says John Rother legislative director of the American Association of Retired Persons the country's largest organization for older people. Nationally there were about 24.7 million men and 30.6 million women over age 55 in 1999 but the male-to-female ratio dropped steadily with age the Census Bureau says. In the 55-to-64 bracket there were 92 men for every 100 women; the ratio fell to 49 men for every 100 women in the 85 and over bracket.

Antibiotic May Help Alzheimer's

An antibiotic tested on mice genetically designed to mimic the effects of Alzheimer's disease reduced and even eliminated protein deposits that are a major feature of the disease a researcher says. Clioquinoline was approved as a human drug decades ago and is now being tested on 50 Alzheimer's patients said Dr. Ashley Bush of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The drug was last used in the 1970s when it was linked to a rare neurological disorder Bush said during a Society for Neuroscience news conference Sunday. Bush is a consultant scientific adviser and shareholder in Prana Biotechnology Ltd. which makes the drug.

Obesity Gene Found

A thrifty gene that helped cavemen survive food shortages appears to be a common underlying trigger of both obesity and diabetes researchers reported on 13 November 2000. German researchers said the gene apparently prompts the body to store up fat for later. They said the gene could be an important explanation of an inherited tendency to gain weight especially among black people. Their work shows that about 90% of blacks 50% of Asians and 30% of whites carry at least one copy of this gene. This gene was advantageous in times of food scarcity said Dr. Achim Gutersohn. But in times of driving and coach potato-ing it can cause obesity." The links between genes living habits and health are of increasing interest to researchers and this association appears to be especially complex in the way people gain weight.

Heart Attacks Linked with Big Meals

Those looking forward to a huge Christmas dinners should consider some dietary downsizing. A study released on 14 November 2000 suggests that an unusually heavy meal increases the risk of a heart attack. Of course it's hardly news that unhealthy eating is bad for the heart. But the latest research concludes that simply

putting away one huge meal - regardless of a person's usual eating habits - is a bad thing. Doctors from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that an unusually heavy meal roughly quadruples the ordinary risk of a heart attack during the two hours after eating. The risk is especially high - 10 times normal - during the first hour after pushing away from the table. But after three hours the extra risk is almost gone.

Heart Removed for Tumour Repair

A 57-year-old woman underwent a surgical gamble on 14 November 2000 in which doctors temporarily removed her heart cut out three rapidly growing tumours and returned the repaired organ. Doctors were cautiously optimistic afterward. Only one other patient has survived the surgery. Joanne Minnich's heart rested in a bowl while the team of cardiac surgeons at Methodist DeBakey Heart Center worked on it. Doctors said the malignant growths one as large as a lemon were on the wall of her heart's left atrium restricting blood flow and could have killed Minnich in as little as two weeks if left unchecked. A heart-lung machine took over the function of Minnich's diseased heart for the approximately 45 minutes it was out of her body. The team would have had a maximum of six hours the length of time a heart can survive out of the body.

France Bans T-bone Steaks

On 14 November 2000 France announced the suspension of animal-based feed for all livestock and the banning of T-bone steaks as part of a series of measures to reduce the spread of mad cow disease. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said the temporary ban on the use of animal-based feeds for all livestock - including fish chicken and pork - would take effect the following day. A decision on a full ban would be made once the French agency for food safety assesses risks associated with such feeds which could take 3-4 months. Jospin also said that T-bone steaks a cut that harbors potential risks because it is near the bone were being banned immediately in France.

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