Health Extension #9 – Stem cells and Longevity

Ach, so much work, it drains my energy and I cannot write.  I must kick this revenue addiction.  But I have found time to attend events and also to think a little.  I went to see Jaron Lanier plug his new book “Who Owns the Future?” at the JCCSF last week.  I duly paid for a copy of this and am reading it now.  Maybe I will write some sort of book review.  But more likely I will just interject ideas from the book over the next few months.  He makes a compelling case that the big data applications (from Google to high frequency trading) are shrinking markets and that maybe the “exhaust risk” they give off is somewhat unhealthy for society.  Of course I have my quibbles which I will air at some point.

Moving on, I attended Health Extension #9 this week and it was awesome.  It was held at this new incubator called RunWay in the same building as Twitter on Market street.  I hesitate to call it the “Twitter Building” since I understand they only have three floors, which is typical of these big data economy shrinkers.  Twitter has a massive global impact and the HQ doesn’t even fill a single office building.  Well, anyway, it’s a cool old building and Runway seems like an interesting space with all the startups and whatnot.  It had a “lean” feel to it which as a consultant I avoid like the plague.  (More accurately, lean startups avoid spending money on consultants like the plague.)  But the folks that operate Runway were generous enough to host a Health Extension Salon, so I won’t bash on them.

The first speaker was Michael Conboy filled in for his wife, Arina Conboy who was ill that evening.  The Conboy’s work focuses on stem cells and aging.  Michael described the basic mechanism by which stem cells repair damaged muscle.  He revealed the surprising finding that older organisms don’t have significantly fewer stems cells nor are these stems cells seriously impaired in any way.  Yet there is something in the environment of older bodies that inhibits the very beginning of the chemical pathway that wakes a stem cell up and causes it to transform and bind together with other cells to rebuild damaged muscle.  Thus older organism end up with more scar tissue and less muscle repair.  So it seems that some of the negative impacts of aging could be counteracted if this “Delta Notch” pathway could be safely reactivated.  I don’t think there is a supplement for this yet.

The next speaker was Sonia Arrison who was plugging her own new book “100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith.”  I also duly purchased this book because content creators ought to get paid.  Arrison gave a very positive talk in which she talked about some of the impacts that longer lifespans will have on society.  She lamented that the inspiring story of the little girl saved by a lab grown trachea was largely overlooked by the media.  Arrison seems to have been fairly vigorous about supporting material.  One of he projections based on projecting historical trends forward was that longer lifespans are correlated with greater economic expansion.  She admitted afterward that she didn’t take automation into account but she sagely noted that we can’t predict how that will play out.  Maybe Jaron Lanier and Michael Ford will be proven wrong and humans will find some role to play in the automated future.  I sure hope so.  Anyway, I will be reading her book soon and I will try to write up a proper review.




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  1. Pingback: Joe Betts-LaCroix | Pack 6 – Palo Alto

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