April 2010 Blog with Durk and Sandy

“Human Felicity is produced not so much by great Pieces of good Fortune that seldom happen, as by little Advantages that occur every Day.” 
— Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, 1771

“I’m sure we can pull together, sir.” Lord Vetinari raised his eyebrows. “Oh, I do hope not, I really do hope not. Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.” He smiled. “It’s the only way to make progress.” 
— Terry Pratchett, “The Truth” (2000)

“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.” 
— Ludwig von Mises, economist

“Paper is poverty … it is only the ghost of money, and not money itself.” 
— Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1788


When cells become senescent, they no longer proliferate, but that doesn’t mean they don’t grow. In fact, a very interesting recent review1 explains how cellular senescence involves both blocked cell cycling (discontinuation of replication) as well as excessive growth-promoting pathways.

The review’s author explains, “[w]hen the cell cycle is arrested, a continuation of cellular-mass growth results in senescent morphology.” In fact, in another paper by the same author (and his co-author)2 it is noted that older cells are indeed larger. “An increase in cell size is a hallmark of senescent fibroblasts. Their cell volume is several fold greater compared with proliferating cells. Cell size is progressively increased in cell culture as cells progress toward senescence.” “In other words, when the cell cycle is blocked in the presence of growth-promoting signaling, then cells increase in size.”

A major growth-promoting pathway includes TOR (target of rapamycin) along with its upstream regulators and downstream effectors. The TOR gene is structurally and functionally conserved from yeast to humans (including worms, flies, plants, and mice), acting as a cell growth regulator. “… [E]xcessive growth is a driving force for aging.”2Indeed, it has been reported that inhibition of TOR signaling increases lifespan in worms,3,3a flies,3b yeast,3c and possibly mammals.3d,3e,3f In mice, decreased signaling through the insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) pathway in adipose tissue results in less mTOR (mammalian TOR) signaling and increases lifespan.2 Reduced caloric intake (as in dietary restriction) also reduces signaling through mTOR and is a well-known method of increasing lifespan in many species, possibly including monkeys.

TOR (target of rapamycin) is inhibited by rapamycin, a natural secondary metabolite produced by soil bacteria to inhibit growth of fungal competitors. Interestingly, rapamycin is a prescription drug in clinical practice; it is administered to renal (kidney) transplant patients everyday for several years to prevent organ rejection.2 Results in these patients have included the unexpected prevention of cancer and even cures of some pre-existing cancers. Moreover, two years after renal transplantation, the body-mass index of patients treated with rapamycin was significantly lower than the patients treated with cyclosporine,2 another immunosuppressant. A study was described2 in which 11 healthy men were treated with 6 mg of rapamycin, with the prevention of insulin resistance that accompanies the large increase of nutrients (that ordinarily induces mTOR signaling) during feeding. At present, rapamycin is being investigated in clinical trials as a treatment for cancer.

Another paper4 describes the activity of pharmaceutical companies seeking to develop rapamycin derivatives to inhibit mTOR. The drug companies are interested in mTOR inhibitors for possible treatment, in addition to cancer, of autoimmune disorders, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and obesity.4a For example, in relation to type 2 diabetes, chronic hyperglycemia can lead to chronic activation of mTOR in pancreatic beta cells.4Rapamycin (which reduces the activity of mTOR) has been shown to induce autophagy, a process of programmed self-digestion which, for example, helps to clear aggregated proteins in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The mTOR Pathway is Sensitive to Redox State
A further paper4b explains how a complex containing mTOR and the protein raptor “is a key component of a nutrient-sensitive signaling pathway that regulates cell size by controlling the accumulation of cellular mass.” In this very interesting study, the authors found that HEK293T cells treated with potent oxidants activated the raptor-mTOR pathway even under nutrient-deprived conditions, when this pathway is ordinarily suppressed. The authors suggest that “[i]f the oxidizing compounds are mimicking an endogenous oxidant that normally activates the raptor-mTOR pathway, the reducing reagent should inhibit pathway activation caused by nutrients.” Indeed the authors found this to be the case; incubating cells with a reducing agent called BAL (2,3-dimercapto-1-propanol) significantly reduced the phosphorylation of S6K1 (an effector of the raptor-mTOR pathway) “and was associated with an increase in the amount of raptor recovered with mTOR as is seen in cells in nutrient-deprived conditions.”

This is an exciting finding as it suggests that it might be possible to suppress mTOR activation even under conditions of full feeding by using appropriate (safe and effective) doses of certain powerful reducing agents. We haven’t seen any further work on this (though it may be that such research is being done but is being kept proprietary).

Natural Products That Inhibit mTOR
There are two natural products that have been reported to be possible inhibitors of mTOR: curcumin and resveratrol. A recent paper5 describes how curcumin disrupts the mTOR-raptor complex (mTORC1) that results from the activation of the mTOR pathway, thus leading the authors to propose that “curcumin may represent a new class of mTOR inhibitor.” Curcumin, along with possibly active (in inhibiting mTOR) molecularly related curcuminoids, can be gotten by supplementing with turmeric root powder.

A very interesting paper reports that resveratrol inhibits the mitogenic signaling (growth promoting) by mTOR that causes smooth muscle cells to proliferate in response to oxidized LDL.5a This could be a very important protective effect of resveratrol since the proliferation of smooth muscle cells is a major part of atherosclerotic development. Rapamycin dose dependently inhibited the DNA synthesis (marker of cellular proliferation) and cell proliferation of smooth muscle cells in culture, with complete inhibition taking place at 10-100 nM, indicating that the smooth muscle cell proliferation was under the control of mTOR. This effect was not due to cytotoxicity of rapamycin because in cells treated with oxidized LDL (50µg apoB/ml), rapamycin was not toxic up to 100 nM. Since resveratrol has been reported to have inhibitory effects on smooth muscle cell (SMC) proliferation, the authors tested it for its effects on mTOR and SMC proliferation. They report: “Dose-response experiments showed that DNA synthesis and cell proliferation were significantly inhibited by 25 µM resveratrol without any significant apoptotic effects [indicative of toxicity] at this concentration. It may be noted that 50 µM resveratrol exhibited a slight toxic effect in the presence of oxLDL [oxidized LDL].” They conclude that “[t]his strongly suggests that resveratrol acts on an upstream target in the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway.”

Resveratrol Dose Limited by Toxicity
Another paper6 reports that resveratrol can inhibit mTOR and thus suppress cellular senescence but that the concentration required is close to the high dose at which resveratrol is toxic to cells. At lower doses, 8-25 µM, resveratrol was reported to “slightly but detectably” prevent the loss of proliferative activity (e.g., senescence) of the cells in which it was tested. Still, 6.25 – 12.5 µM resverarol was shown to block the cell cycle and 25 µM caused apoptosis in vascular smooth cells in another study (cited in paper #6).

Another recent paper7 reports that a “low dose” of dietary resveratrol (4.9 mg/kg) partially mimics caloric restriction and retards aging parameters in mice on a non-calorically restricted diet (though effects on mTOR were not reported in this study).

A further recent paper8 reported that standard diet fed rats receiving 6 mg of resveratrol/liter of drinking water had a reduced ratio of GSH/GSSG (reduced glutathione/oxidized glutathione) and enhanced GSSG, indicative of increased oxidative stress, in liver cells; in the same study, rats on a high fat diet receiving the same amount of resveratrol in their drinking water had reduced GSSG with GSH/GSSG not significantly different from controls on a standard diet, indicative of less oxidative stress. Though this dose of resveratrol (6 mg/liter of water) is, the authors say, below the maximal tolerated dose, the study suggests that the dose ingested by the standard diet fed rats (an average of a total of 48.2 mg/kg of body weight of resveratrol over 45 days or about 1 mg of resveratrol/kg body weight/day) had toxic effects, particularly (as noted above) increased oxidative stress in the liver. Meanwhile, the total amount of resveratrol, 14.8 mg/kg, ingested over 15 days (about 1 mg/kg body weight per day) by the high fat diet fed rats had protective effects.

Further research is needed to understand the varying effects of different doses of resveratrol in rats (and, indeed, in humans) fed different diets to determine optimal doses. It has already been found that dietary composition may affect the degree of life extension resulting from caloric restriction in fruit flies.8a

The amount of resveratrol in red wine is reportedly about 90 µg of resveratrol/fluid ounce of red wine).9

The authors of paper #6 speculate that “even transient inhibition of mTOR is already sufficient to slightly suppress senescence.” They also suggest that “a combination of non-toxic doses of resveratrol with rapamycin would also extend life span in animals on a standard diet.” Resveratrol has already been shown to extend the lifespan of mice on a high-fat diet. We, of course, would like to see a test of non-toxic doses of resveratrol along with curcumin for its effects on mTOR and on life extension in animals on a standard diet. We would also be interested in the effects on mTOR of the curcumin-related curcuminoids found in turmeric root powder.

We ourselves take our turmeric root powder (2 capsules four times a day) rather than taking only curcumin due to the possible additional benefits of the curcuminoids. We do not know what the optimal amount of resveratrol is for the purpose of decreasing cellular senescence and inhibiting mTOR, though we do drink moderate amounts of red wine and also take resveratrol supplements.


  1. Blagosklonny. Aging-suppressants.Cell Cycle8(12):1883-7 (2009).
    2. Blagosklonny and Hall. Growth and aging: a common molecular mechanism. Aging1(4):357-62 (2009).
    3. Vellal et al. Influence of TOR kinase on lifespan in C. elegans. Nature 426:620 (2003).
    3a. Ayyadevera et al. Remarkable longevity and stress resistance of nematode PI3K-null mutants. Aging Cell 7(1):13-22 (2008).
    3b. Kapahi et al. Regulation of lifespan in Drosophila by modulation of genes in the TOR signaling pathway. Current Biology 14:885-90 (2004).
    3c. Powers, et al. Extension of chronological life span in yeast by decreased TOR pathway signaling. Genes & Development 20:174-84 (2006).
    3d. Harrison et al. Rapamycin fed late in life extends lifespan in genetically heterogenous mice. Nature 460:392-5 (2009).
    3e. Sharp and Bartke. Evidence for down-regulation of phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt/mammalian Target of Rapamycin (PI3K/Akt/mTOR)-dependent translation regulatory signaling pathways in Ames Dwarf mice. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 60A(3):293-300 (2005).
    3f. Chen et al. mTOR regulation and therapeutic rejuvenation of aging hematopoietic stem cells. Sci Signal 2(98), ra75. [Doi: 10.1126/scisignal.2000559] (24 Nov. 2009). “Together, our data show that the activity of the mTOR pathway is increased in HSCs [hematopoietic stem cells] from aged mice and that increasing mTOR signaling is sufficient to cause premature aging of HSCs in young mice.” “Moreover, pharmaceutical inhibition of mTOR improved the regenerative capacity of HSCs from aged mice, showing that the functional capacity of these HSCs can be restored.”
    4. Tsang et al. Targeting mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) for health and diseases. Drug Discov Today 12(3/4):112-124 (2007).
    4a. Wullschleger et al. TOR signaling in growth and metabolism. Cell 124:471-7 (2006). “Recent studies suggest that the TOR signaling network also controls fat metabolism. In particular mTORC1 appears to play an important role in adipogenesis as rapamycin treatment prevents adipocyte differentiation and, thus, lipid accumulation.” “… loss of TOR activity correlates with a decrease in fat accumulation, suggesting that the TOR pathway may be a ‘thrifty pathway’ normally required for fat accumulation.”
    4b. Sarbassov and Sabatini. Redox regulation of the nutrient-sensitive raptor-mTOR pathway and complex. J Biol Chem 280(47):39505-9 (2005).
    5. Beevers et al. Curcumin disrupts the mammalian target of rapamycin-Raptor complex. Cancer Res 69(3):1000-8 (2009).
    5a. Brito et al. Resveratrol inhibits the mTOR mitogenic signaling evoked by oxidized LDL in smooth muscle cells. Atherosclerosis 205:126-34 (2009).
    6. Demidenko and Blogosklonny. At concentrations that inhibit mTOR, resveratrol suppresses cellular senescence. Cell Cycle 8(12):1901-4 (2009).
    7. Barger et al. A low dose of dietary resveratrol partially mimics caloric restriction and retards aging parameters in mice. PLoS One 3(6):e2264 (June 2008), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002264.
    8. Rocha et al. Resveratrol toxicity: Effects on risk factors for atherosclerosis and hepatic oxidative stress in standard and high-fat diets. Food Chem Toxicol 47:1362-7 (2009).
    8a. Grandison et al. Amino-acid imbalance explains extension of lifespan by dietary restriction in Drosophila. Nature 462:1062-4 (2009). [In this paper, adding essential amino acids to the dietary restriction condition in fruit flies increased fecundity but decreased lifespan.]
    9. Zhao-Wilson. What dose of resveratrol should humans take? Life Extension, pp. 65-7 (March 2007).


As the article above explains, senescence is associated with an increase in cell size due to hyperactive growth along with cell cycle blockade. Consistent with that, a new paper1 reports that enlarged subcutaneous abdominal adipocytes (fat cells), along with the amount and distribution of body fat, predicts an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. In the population studied (a Swedish cohort of 1302 women), increased size of femoral adipocytes also acted as predictors of type 2 diabetes.

The authors note that, in an earlier study, enlarged subcutaneous abdominal adipocytes also predicted the development of type 2 diabetes in Pima Indians (Arizona) with normal glucose tolerance.

The Swedish women who had the larger abdominal adipocytes at baseline had an age/heredity adjusted hazard ratio (for developing type 2 diabetes) of 1.91 as compared to 1 for the women with smaller abdominal adipocytes at baseline. These data were obtained from a 25 year followup (1976 to Dec. 31, 2001) of a subset of the original 1302 women that included 184 women randomly sampled from the cohort along with 61 additional cohort members with a body mass index ≥30 (obese). The authors report that as of the last followup (2000–2001), about 30% of the women with the largest abdominal fat cells at baseline had developed type 2 diabetes compared with less than 10% among those with the smallest fat cells.

  1. Lonn et al. Adipocyte size predicts incidence of type 2 diabetes in women. FASEB J 24:326-31 (2010).

A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, “I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.” 
A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named “Ahmal.” The other goes to a family in Spain, they name him “Juan.” Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, “They’re twins! If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Ahmal.” 
—Patriot Humor, patriotpost.us


A new neuroprotective effect of melatonin has been reported recently, suggesting that “melatonin may serve as a novel therapeutic strategy directed for preventing the memory deficits resulting from TSD [total sleep deprivation], possibly by effectively preserving the metabolic function and neuronal plasticity engaged in maintaining cognitive activity.”1 SIRT1 is known to play an important role in maintaining metabolic homestasis and neuronal plasticity.1

Adult Wistar rats were prevented from sleeping for five days (!) by a diabolical device that had the rats in a platform above a rectangular tray filled with water to a depth of 5 cm. Rats have an aversion to water. As the authors described it, when sleep onset was detected in the sleep-deprived rat, the device rotated a disc carrying the rat toward the water, which required the rat to both stay awake and to walk against the direction of the disc rotation to avoid being forced into the water.

After five days of this treatment with no sleep, the amount of SIRT1 activity in the hippocampus was drastically decreased. The rats’ performance on the Morris water maze (where the animals have to find a hidden submerged platform that allows them to discontinue swimming without drowning) was also considerably decreased (taking the TSD rats 47 ± 5.62 sec. to find the platform compared to 35 ± 2.51 sec. by the normal not-sleep-deprived rats). A test of memory, in which the submerged platform is removed and the time that rats spend in the area of the former location is determined, showed that the TSD rats spent less percentage of time in the target quadrant (19 ± 0.83% as compared to 38 ± 1.25% by the non sleep-deprived rats).

In TSD rats that were given melatonin treatment, the relative protein levels of SIRT1 in the hippocampus were preserved, with greater effects at higher doses of melatonin. The time to find the submerged platform in the Morris water maze was also decreased by melatonin treatment in the TSD rats. In the rats receiving 100 mg/kg of melatonin, time to find the hidden platform was 36 ± 2.50 sec. as compared to the 47 ± 5.62 sec. for the TSD rats not receiving melatonin. When the hidden platform was removed, rats given 5 mg/kg of melatonin spent much more time in the target quadrant (31 ± 2.08 sec.) as compared to the untreated TSD rats (19 ± 0.83 sec.).

Isn’t it nice to know that the next time you plan (or not) to get no sleep for five days, you can (assuming it works similarly as in the rats) prevent much of the cognitive impairment that would otherwise occur?

  1. Chang et al. Melatonin preserves longevity protein (sirtuin 1) expression in the hippocampus of total sleep-deprived rats. J Pineal Res 47:211-20 (2009).


Sandy has a mild degree of arthritis in her left knee, enough to be noticeable in walking up stairs or walking fast on hard surfaces. She has gotten a considerable amount of relief with ErgoMates, which are basically energy-absorbing anti-fatigue floor mats sized to fit over most shoes with hook and loop straps. ErgoMates provide excellent traction and grip, as well as comfort. Sandy got hers for $53 plus shipping from MarketLab, Inc. (1-800-237-3604, MarketLabInc.com). Available for same price in sizes XS to Extra large. They are probably available from other sources as well, possibly at a lower price.

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