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Ray Kurzweil – 2
There are a number of others that are important to take in general. If you have high cholesterol, Policosanol is one supplement that is quite effective, and has an independent action from the Statin drugs. Statin drugs actually are quite good. They appear to be anti-inflammatory, so they not only lower cholesterol but attack the inflammatory processes, which underlie many diseases, including atherosclerosis. But as I mentioned it’s important to take coenzyme Q10 if you’re taking Statin drugs.
There are others. Grape seed proanthocyanidin extract has been found to be another effective antioxident. Resveratrol is another. We have an extensive discussion of the most important supplements in the book.
David: What sort of suggestions would you make to someone who is looking to improve their memory or cognitive performance?
Ray: Vinpocetine, derived from the periwinkle plant, seems to have the best research. It improves cerebral blood flow, increases brain cell TP (energy) production, and enables better utilization of glucose and oxygen in the brain.
Other supplements that appear to be important for brain health include Phosphatidylserine, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Pregneneolone, and EPA/DHA. The research appears a bit mixed on Ginkgo Biloba, but we’re not ready to give up on it.
We provide a discussion in the book of a number of smart nutrients that appear to improve brain health. There are also a number of smart drugs being developed, some of which are already in the testing pipeline, that appear to be quite promising.
David: What do you think are the primary causes of aging?
Ray: Aging is not one thing. There’s a number of different processes involved and you can adopt programs that slow down each of these. For example, one process involves the depletion of phosphatidylcholine in the cell membrane. In young people the cell membrane is about sixty or seventy percent phosphatidylcholine, and the cell membrane functions very well then–letting nutrients in and letting toxins out.
The body makes phosphatidylcholine, but very slowly, so over the decades the phosphatidylcholine in the cell membrane depletes, and the cell membrane gets filled in with inert substances, like hard fats and cholesterol, that basically don’t work. This is one reasons that cells become brittle with age. The skin in an elderly person begins to not be supple. The organs stop functioning efficiently. So it’s actually a very important aging process, and you can reverse that by supplementing with phosphatidylcholine. If you really want to do it effectively you can take phosphatidylcholine intravenously, as I do. Every week I have a I.V. with phosphatidylcholine. I also take it every day orally. So that’s one aging process we can stop today.
Another important aging process involves oxidation through positively-charged oxygen free radicals, which will steal electrons from cells, disrupting normal enzymatic processes. There are a number of different types of antioxidants that you can take to slow down that process, including vitamin C. You could take vitamin C intravenously to boost that process.
Advanced Glycation end-products, or AGEs, are involved in another aging process. This is where proteins develop cross-links with each other, therefore disrupting their function. There are supplements that you can take, such as Alpha Lipoic Acid, that slow that down. There is an experimental drug called ALT-711 (phenacyldimenthylthiazolium chloride) that can dissolve the AGE cross-links without damaging the original tissues.
Atherosclerosis is an aging process, and it’s not just taking place in the coronary arteries, of course. It can take place in the cerebral arteries, which ultimately causes cerebral strokes, but it also takes place in the arteries all throughout the body. It can lead to impotence, claudication of the legs and limbs, and like most of these processes, it’s not linear but exponential, in that it grows by a certain percentage each year.
So that’s why the process of atherosclerosis hardly seems to progress for a long time, but then when gets to a certain point it can really explode and develop very quickly. We have an extensive program on reducing atherosclerosis, which is both an aging process and a disease process. We cite a number of important supplements that reduce cholesterol and inflammation–such as the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA–as well as the Statin drugs. Supplements like Curcumin [Tumeric] are helpful. Supplements that reduce inflammation will reduce both cancer and the inflammatory processes that lead to atherosclerosis. There are a number of supplements that reduce Homocysteine, which appears to encourage atherosclerosis. These include Folic Acid, vitamins B2, B6, and B12, magnesium, and trimethylglycine (TMG).
So you can attack atherosclerosis five or six different ways, and we recommend that you do them all, so long as there aren’t contraindications for combining treatments. But generally these treatments are independent of each other. If you go to war, you don’t just send in the helicopters. You send in the helicopters, the tanks, the planes, and the infantry. You use your intelligence resources, and attack the enemy every way that you can, with all of your resources. And that’s really what you need to do with these conditions, because they represent very threatening processes. If you are sufficient proactive, you can generally get them under control.
David: What are some of the new anti-aging treatments that you foresee coming along in the near future, like from stem cell research and therapeutic cloning?
Ray: It depends on what you mean by “near future,” because in ten or fifteen years we foresee a fundamentally transformed landscape.
David: Let’s just say prior to nanotechnology, and then that will be the next question.
Ray: The next frontier is biotechnology. We’re really now entering an era where we can reprogram biology. We’ve sequenced the genome, and we are now reverse-engineering the genome. We’re understanding the roles that the genes play, how they express themselves in proteins, and how these proteins then play roles in sequences of biochemical steps that lead to both orderly processes as well as dysfunction–disease processes, such as atherosclerosis and cancer–and we are gaining the means to reprogram those processes.
For example, we can now turn genes off with RNA interference. This is a new technique that just emerged a few years ago–a medication with little pieces of RNA that latch on to the messenger RNA that is expressing a targeted gene and destroys it, therefore preventing the gene from expressing itself. This effectively turns the gene off. So right away that methodology has lots of applications.
Take the fat insulin receptor gene. That gene basically says ‘hold on to every calorie because the next hunting season may not work out so well.’ That was a good strategy, not only for humans, but for most species, thousands of years ago. It’s still probably a good strategy for animals living in the wild. But we’re not animals living in the wild. It was good for humans a thousand years ago when calories were few and far between. Today it underlies an epidemic of obesity. How about turning that gene off in the fat cells? What would happen?
That was actually tried in mice, and these mice ate ravenously, and they remained slim. They got the health benefits of being slim. They didn’t get diabetes. They didn’t get heart disease. They lived twenty percent longer. They got the benefits of caloric restriction while doing the opposite. So turning off the fat insulin receptor gene in fat cells is the idea. You don’t want to turn it off in muscle cells, for example. This is one methodology that could enable us to prevent obesity, and actually maintain an optimal weight no matter what we ate. So that’s one application of RNA interference.
There’s a number of genes that have been identified that promote atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes and many other diseases. We’d like to selectively turn those genes off, and slow down or stop these disease processes. There are certain genes that appear to have an influence on the rate of aging. We can amplify the expression of genes similarly, and we can actually add new genetic information–that’s gene therapy. Gene therapy has had problems in the past, because we’ve had difficulty putting the genetic information in the right place at the right chromosome. There are new techniques now that enable us to do that correctly.
For example, you can take a cell out of the body, insert the genetic information in vitro–which is much easier to do in a Petri dish–and examine whether or not the insertion went as intended. If it ended up in the wrong place you discard it. You keep doing this until you get it right. You can examine the cell and make sure that it doesn’t have any DNA errors. So then you take this now modified cell–that has also been certified as being free of DNA errors–and it’s replicated in the Petri dish, so that hundreds of millions of copies of it are created. Then you inject these cells back into the patient, and they will work their way into the right tissues. A lung cell is not going to end up in the liver.
In fact, this was tried by a company I’m involved with, United Therapeutics. I advise them and I’m on their board. They tried this with a fatal disease called pulmonary hypertension, which is a lung disease, and these modified cells ended up in the right place–in the lungs–and actually cured pulmonary hypertension in animal tests. It has now been approved for human trials. That’s just one