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Life Extension Magazine

LE Magazine May 1997


The Life Extension Foundation has embarked on the most ambitious research project in history. We're aiming to conquer aging and death by the year 2020, and we've begun to fund ground-breaking research programs to help achieve these goals.

Most people don't understand how money earmarked for scientific research is used. They have no idea of the many costly items required to conduct ground-breaking research. We're going to tell you how our research funding is being used, but first you need to understand why we have to fund life extension research in the first place.

Billions of tax dollars go to support medical research every year, but much of this money is either squandered by bureaucrats or spent on research to support the status quo. None of it is spent to extend the human lifespan. Scientists funded by The Life Extension Foundation, on the other hand, are motivated by the personal desire to achieve an extended, healthy lifespan for themselves! As a result, they often work 100-hour weeks and more, with intensity and dedication.

Whenever a Foundation member buys a product from the Life Extension Buyers Club, he or she contributes to highly cost-effective life extension research programs. In order to enlighten you about the programs currently being funded by your product purchases, we have outlined the research we are funding as of January 1997.

The Lifespan Project

Image The purpose of this project is to determine the effects of nutrients, hormones and drugs used by life extensionists today on mean and maximum lifespan and aging in adult mice. In order to do so, we're providing gifts with no strings attached to scientists already engaged in interventive gerontological research. The initial scientists we have given financial assistance to are Richard Weindruch, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and Stephen R. Spindler, Ph.D., of the University of California at Riverside. Some of the studies that Weindruch and Spindler are devising will test single agents; others will test a combination of agents. There are reasons to believe that these agents may slow aging and extend lifespan. The studies will help to determine if any of them actually do so.

The Lifespan Project is the first large-scale, coordinated program designed to investigate the effects of promising dietary agents on aging and lifespan. Among the agents chosen by Weindruch and Spindler for the initial studies are:

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine
  • Aminoguanidine
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Lycopene
  • Melatonin
  • NADH
  • Procysteine
  • Pregnenolone
T hese agents have been chosen to test four theories about the causes of aging that have been advocated by prominent gerontologists: That aging is caused by free radical activity, hormone depletion, energy reduction, and glycosylation. The full rationale and protocols for our lifespan studies will be explained by Drs. Weindruch and Spindler in an upcoming issue of Life Extension magazine.

Dr. Weindruch is Professor of Medicine (Section of Geriatrics and Gerontology) and a research scientist at the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) at the William S. Middleton Veterans' Hospital.

Dr. Weindruch has devoted his entire 20-year research career to the biology of aging. He holds a Ph.D. in Experimental Pathology from UCLA. His doctoral work was conducted under the supervision of Dr. Roy Walford, with whom he collaborated on many studies. Currently, Dr. Weindruch is also Associate Director of the University of Wisconsin's Institute on Aging; Chairman of the Aging Research Group at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center; and Chairman of the National Institutes of Health's Geriatrics and Rehabilitative Medicine Study Section.

Dr. Weindruch is an authority on the effects of calorie restriction on aging and lifespan. He has conducted many lifespan studies in rodents, and is currently doing the same in rhesus monkeys. His laboratory is investigating the possibility that calorie restriction retards the aging process by reducing the rate of accumulation of free radical damage to cells.

Dr. Weindruch is widely published in the scientific literature. He has authored two books, 55 peer-reviewed research reports and 40 review articles. In 1988, Drs. Weindruch and Walford published an important book aimed at the scientific community entitled "The Retardation of Aging and Diseases by Dietary Restriction."

The facilities where Dr. Weindruch will be conducting the lifespan studies are located at the GRECC. They are truly outstanding. There are two types of facilities, one to house rats and mice, and the other to conduct experiments on tissues derived from these animals.

The Shared Aging Rodent Facility houses rats and mice on a long-term basis. It is a 2,900- square-foot facility with a clean/dirty corridor system and cage-level barriers for the long-term maintenance of aging rats and mice in a pathogen-free environment.

The GRECC became fully operational in January, with a recently constructed 6,000-square-foot space designed and equipped to carry out a variety of molecular, biochemical, histologic and immunologic analyses.

After we sent Dr. Weindruch funding, we asked him to inform us how The Foundation's money would be spent for the lifespan studies he will be conducting at the University of Wisconsin. See the breakdown (Table 1, below) of the current and anticipated costs of conducting lifespan research at his facility.

Additional lifespan studies will be conducted at the University of California at Riverside by Stephen R. Spindler, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry. Dr. Spindler is a molecular biologist with a keen interest in life-extension research.

Dr. Spindler earned his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences with a major in Biochemistry in 1976 from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in Houston, where he was a National Institutes of Health-Public Health Service Predoctoral Fellow. In 1981, after postdoctoral positions in the Department of Biochemistry at Colorado State University, and the Endocrine Research Division of the University of California at San Francisco, he joined the faculty of the University of California at Riverside.

Dr. Spindler has published more than 50 scientific papers. He has served as a member of the Physiological Sciences Study Section of the National Institutes of Health (1992-1995), and has been a member of many other scientific review panels of NIH.

Dr. Spindler is an authority on the molecular basis for steroid-thyroid-retinoid-vitamin D hormone action. For the past 12 years, he has been investigating the molecular-genetic mechanisms determining lifespan. His research has been especially concerned with the relationship between nutrition and lifespan.

At the University of California Riverside campus, the animal colony for the lifespan studies will be maintained in the Biochemistry Department's Boyce Hall vivarium, an AALAC-certified, 3,000-square-foot facility located on the floor immediately above Dr. Spindler's laboratory. There, the mice will be maintained in a pathogen-free environment and looked after by the facility's veterinarian as well as a highly trained professional staff of animal-care technicians.

Dr. Spindler's laboratory of approximately 3,000 square feet contains equipment for research into recombinant DNA, protein purification, cell and tissue purification and analysis at the molecular level, including sterile bio-containment facilities, incubators, microscopes, centrifuges, DNA sequencing apparatus, electrophoresis apparatus, imaging systems and other equipment. Dr. Spindler also provided us with a breakdown of the current and anticipated costs of conducting lifespan research at his facility .

While both Dr. Weindruch and Dr. Spindler are receiving funding from The Foundation for research expenses, they are volunteering their time in their search for evidence that today's dietary supplements can slow aging and extend lifespan. They are doing so because of their personal interest in life extension research, and because they consider it to be of great importance to humanity.

Another scientist volunteering his time to contribute to The Lifespan Project is Dr. Steven B. Harris, M.D., a physician now practicing medicine in Salt Lake City, UT, who has conducted lifespan studies at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The Lifespan Project is the first multistudy lifespan program ever conducted. It also is the first series of lifespan studies which focus entirely on nutrients, hormones and drugs in common use today. The initial studies we are funding are just the beginning of the project. As it grows in size and scope, we (and others) expect to be donating money to other scientists at other institutions. Future studies will be based upon the findings of our initial studies and the results of studies conducted at other laboratories. The Lifespan Project will continue until we find agents, or combinations of agents and regimens, that can demonstrably slow aging and extend lifespan, both in laboratory animals and in humans.