Category: Aging

A $12 Billion Startup Believes It Can “Cure” Aging

Samumed has been raising huge amounts of cash on the hopes that its technology can reverse a whole host of age-related conditions including baldness, wrinkles, and even worn-down joints. The company’s $12 billion valuation is one of the highest on the planet for a private biotech company, with their “fountain of youth” promise proving to be a very popular one. It’s hardly surprising though that a technology that might be able to deliver new approaches to treat the effects of aging would be an investor magnet – if the tech really works, the company is sure to deliver some massive returns. There is however plenty of skepticism, with a long list of drugs in the pipeline but not a single one yet on the market. Anything that they end up hoping to bring to the public will also need FDA approval. Samumed’s first drugs are targeted at specific organ systems. One aims to regrow hair in bald men. The same drug may also turn gray hair back to its original color, and a cosmetic version could erase wrinkles. A second drug seeks to regenerate cartilage in arthritic knees. Additional medicines in early human studies aim to repair degenerated discs in the spine, remove scarring in the lungs and treat cancers. The firm’s focus, disease by disease, symptom by symptom, is to make the cells of aging people regenerate as powerfully as those of a developing fetus. This is done by triggering something called progenitor stem cells. CEO Osman Kibar explains these cells are in charge of repairing and replenishing specific organs in the body. “For example, a mesenchymal stem cell of the osteoblast lineage can go in and repair bone that’s damaged.” The company’s treatments manipulate the WNT pathway, a set of proteins that tell these stem cells to spring into action. Kibar says these WNT levels get out of balance as we age. By successfully manipulating the WNT pathway, Samumed hopes to reverse various conditions or even prevent some diseases from occurring to begin with. Samumed has seven drugs in human clinical trials up to phase two and plans to be in 10 disease areas by the end of 2017. The one nearest to getting to a phase-three trial treats osteoarthritis by regenerating cartilage. If it proves successful, it will be the first treatment ever capable of regrowing cartilage. The company has a distinct lack of healthcare specialist investors, though, which has led to perhaps even greater skepticism. That doubt has been somewhat amplified since the Theranos scandal, the blood testing company that raised $725 million and had a $9 billion valuation before The Wall Street Journal published an investigation that questioned the accuracy of those tests and led to its labs getting shut down. Like Theranos, Samumed has kept the details of its technology a very tightly-held secret. Kibar says they will be publishing later-stage trial data in academic journals, saying they are willing to provide proof that it does work. “How it works,” says Kibar, “you just need to wait a little longer, because we want to build as much a head start as we can.” Personally, I’ve learned some very valuable lesson investing in the health and bio-med space. I’ve learned that I’ve never heard a bad story or one that I didn’t think would help the world or mankind. The problem is there’s a lot more involved in being a profitable business than just “the story”, being a company that returns gains on investments to shareholders is an extremely challenging hurdle, especially with technology so rapidly advancing in this space. There are definitely some huge home runs that can be hit in this sector, but I’ve learned I’m just not a disciplined enough hitter in this space to know what pitches to swing at. In other words I can’t tell if it‘s a fastball or curve-ball when it leaves the pitchers hand, therefore I’ll strike out twenty times in a row before I put the bat on the ball. I just don’t want to battle that psychology in an environment that’s been offering up such easy layups in other areas. (Sources: Business Insider, Forbes)

Your Hearing May Not Be As Good As You Think

If you find yourself wondering why everyone around you mumbles so much, you might need to rethink what the true problem is. A new study has found that a good chunk of Americans are suffering from some degree of hearing loss. What’s more, about a quarter of them think their hearing is “excellent”! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest survey found that approximately 20 million American adults have hearing damage due to loud noise exposure. It’s long been known that noisy work environments can damage our ears, but the CDC was surprised to find that 53% of adults with noise-induced hearing damage reported no exposure to loud sounds while on the job. Meaning the noise damage came from their everyday lives. An obvious culprit is headphones or earbuds, but other less obvious sounds in our surrounding communities are also harmful, including lawnmowers, sirens and sporting events. Loud noises cause hearing loss by damaging the hair cells in the inner ear that vibrate when exposed to sound waves. The ability to hear sounds and noise is based on the signals these hair cells send to the brain. The damage is not immediately recognizable in most cases, but builds up over time. It’s because of that gradual build that most people are oblivious to the fact that their hearing is impaired in any way. The CDC study also found that the damage starts early in life – about 20% of Americans in their 20s have lost some ability to hear softer sounds. Still, people were more likely to develop hearing loss as they grew older, the CDC researchers found. About 27% of adults 50 to 59 had some degree of hearing loss. It’s recommended that people have their hearing checked regularly, but the CDC found that less than half – 46% – of adults that reported trouble hearing had bothered to consult a doctor. Regardless of whether your hearing is perfect or you already have some damage, the important thing is to protect the hearing capability you have left. Remember, damage occurs at just 85 decibels. If you are consistently exposed to sounds above that level, you might want to consider wearing ear plugs or noise canceling-headphones while you are around them. For a point of reference, below are the decibel levels of some common sounds.

A normal conversation 60 decibels
Traffic noise – 80 decibels
Food blender – 88 decibels
Tractor – 90 decibels
Motorcycle – 95 decibels
Electric drill – 95 decibels
Factory machinery – 100 decibels
Crying baby – 110 decibels
Football game (at stadium) – 117 decibels
Music concert – 120 decibels
Thunder – 120 decibels
Chain saw – 125 decibels
Handgun – 166 decibels

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What’s The Secret to Aging… Good Read I Wanted To Pass Along

This article is reprinted by permission from and written by Emily Gurnon

What makes some people age more quickly than others? What exactly is aging? And can we do anything about the speed at which we grow old? Authors Elizabeth Blackburn, a molecular biologist, and Elissa Epel, a health psychologist, offer answers in a fascinating new book, “The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer.”

In 2009, Blackburn was one of three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize for their research on telomeres (protective DNA at the ends of chromosomes) and how they protect chromosomes. Epel, one of the 2016 Next Avenue Influencers in Aging, studies how chronic stress accelerates aging, with a focus on telomeres. Both authors work at the University of California, San Francisco.

(The following is excerpted from “The Telomere Effect” by Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D. and Elissa Epel, Ph.D. Copyright (c) 2017 by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel. Used by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.)

It is a chilly Saturday morning in San Francisco. Two women sit at an outdoor cafe, sipping hot coffee. For these two friends, this is their time away from home, family, work, and to-do lists that never seem to get any shorter.

Kara is talking about how tired she is. How tired she always is. It doesn’t help that she catches every cold that goes around the office, nor that those colds inevitably turn into miserable sinus infections. Or that her ex-husband keeps “forgetting” when it’s his turn to pick up the children. Or that her bad-tempered boss at the investment firm scolds her — right in front of her staff. And sometimes, as she lies down in bed at night, Kara’s heart gallops out of control. The sensation lasts for just a few seconds, but Kara stays awake long after it passes, worrying. Maybe it’s just the stress, she tells herself. I’m too young to have a heart problem. Aren’t I?

“It’s not fair,” she sighs to Lisa. “We’re the same age, but I look older.”

Two faces of age

She’s right. In the morning light, Kara looks haggard. When she reaches for her coffee cup, she moves gingerly, as if her neck and shoulders hurt.

But Lisa looks vibrant. Her eyes and skin are bright; this is a woman with more than enough energy for the day’s activities. She feels good, too. Actually, Lisa doesn’t think very much about her age, except to be thankful that she’s wiser about life than she used to be.

Looking at Kara and Lisa side by side, you would think that Lisa really is younger than her friend. If you could peer under their skin, you’d see that in some ways, this gap is even wider than it seems. Chronologically, the two women are the same age. Biologically, Kara is decades older.

Does Lisa have a secret — expensive facial creams? Laser treatments at the dermatologist’s office? Good genes? A life that has been free of the difficulties her friend seems to face year after year?

Not even close. Lisa has more than enough stresses of her own. She lost her husband two years ago in a car accident; now, like Kara, she is a single mother. Money is tight, and the tech startup company she works for always seems to be one quarterly report away from running out of capital.

What’s going on? Why are these two women aging in such different ways?

The answer is simple, and it has to do with the activity inside each woman’s cells. Kara’s cells are prematurely aging. She looks older than she is, and she is on a headlong path toward age-related diseases and disorders. Lisa’s cells are renewing themselves. She is living younger.

Why do people age differently?

Why do people age at different rates? Why are some people whip smart and energetic into old age, while other people seem much younger and are sick, exhausted, and foggy? You can think of the difference visually:

Our healthspan is the number of years of our healthy life. Our diseasespan is the years we live with noticeable disease that interferes with our quality of living. Lisa and Kara may both live to 100, but each has a dramatically different quality of life in the second half of her life.

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