2,000-Year-Old Seeds Sprout “Long-Lost Judean Dates”

(p. A8) KETURA, Israel — The plump, golden-brown dates hanging in a bunch just above the sandy soil were finally ready to pick.

They had been slowly ripening in the desert heat for months. But the young tree on which they grew had a much more ancient history — sprouting from a 2,000-year-old seed retrieved from an archaeological site in the Judean wilderness.

. . .

These were the much-extolled but long-lost Judean dates, and the harvest this month was hailed as a modern miracle of science.

. . .

. . ., to bring something back to life from dormancy is so symbolic,” Dr. Sallon said. “To pollinate and produce these incredible dates is like a beam of light in a dark time.”

. . .

The research was peer reviewed and detailed in a paper published in February this year in Science Advances, a leading scientific journal.

For the full story, see:

Isabel Kershner. “Israel Dispatch: After 2,000 Years in the Wilderness, It’s a Date. And It’s Delicious.” The New York Times (Monday, September 7, 2020): A8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “Israel Dispatch: Aided by Modern Ingenuity, a Taste of Ancient Judean Dates.”)

The paper in Science Advances mentioned above is:

Sallon, Sarah, Emira Cherif, Nathalie Chabrillange, Elaine Solowey, Muriel Gros-Balthazard, Sarah Ivorra, Jean-Frédéric Terral, Markus Egli, and Frédérique Aberlenc. “Origins and Insights into the Historic Judean Date Palm Based on Genetic Analysis of Germinated Ancient Seeds and Morphometric Studies.” Science Advances 6, no. 6 (Feb. 5, 2020), DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax0384.

After Age 65, Men Lose More “Antibody-Producing B Cells” Than Women Lose

(p. B5) By examining gender-based distinctions in the immune system, cell structure, brain and other systems, researchers are discovering how and why men and women grow older in clearly different ways.

Their findings could help explain why Covid-19 has had a greater impact on older men than older women. A recent study found that men, after the age of 65, lost important antibody-producing B cells in the blood, while women didn’t.

“It was surprising,” said Duygu Ucar, an associate professor who led the study at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn. The research team also found that men, as they age, experience greater inflammation in their blood, which has been associated with severe cases of Covid-19.

. . .

Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, looked at the blood of men and women between the ages of 65 and 95 and found protein levels changed at different rates. Less change means more stability, he said. Men’s levels changed far more than women’s, with 600 significant changes versus 277 for women, according to the study, published in December.

“The female biology seems to be more stable than men’s,” says Dr. Barzilai, the author of “Age Later” who specializes in geroscience.

For the full story, see:

Clare Ansberry. “Women and Men Age Differently—-And in More Ways Than Just Longevity.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, July 15, 2020): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 14, 2020, and has the title “Women and Men Age Differently—in More Ways Than Just Longevity.” The last couple of paragraphs quoted above, appeared in the online, but not the print, version of the article.)

The “recent study” mentioned above is:

Márquez, Eladio J., Cheng-han Chung, Radu Marches, Robert J. Rossi, Djamel Nehar-Belaid, Alper Eroglu, David J. Mellert, George A. Kuchel, Jacques Banchereau, and Duygu Ucar. “Sexual-Dimorphism in Human Immune System Aging.” Nature Communications 11, Article #751 (Feb. 6, 2020): 1-17.

The book by Barzilai, mentioned above, is:

Barzilai, Nir. Age Later: Health Span, Life Span, and the New Science of Longevity. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2020.

Cancer Mortality Declines Mainly Due to Less Smoking and Better Lung Cancer Treatment

(p. A12) . . . the American Cancer Society reported that the United States had experienced the sharpest one-year drop in cancer death rate ever recorded, . . . .

. . .

The society’s latest annual report on cancer statistics, released on Wednesday, noted that the death rate had dropped steadily over 26 years, from 1991 to 2017. The largest single-year decline ever reported, when the rate fell 2.2 percent, occurred from 2016 to 2017.

. . .

Experts attributed the decline in mortality to reduced smoking rates and to advances in lung cancer treatment. New therapies for melanoma of the skin have also helped extend life for many people with metastatic disease, or cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

For the full story, see:

Michael Levenson. “Cancer Death Fell Sharply, And Trump Took Credit.” The New York Times (Monday, January 13, 2020): A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 12, 2020 and has the title “Trump Took Credit for Lower Cancer Death Rates. Advocates Say Not So Fast.” Where there was a minor wording difference between the print and online versions, the quotation above follows the online version. )

The report from the American Cancer Society, mentioned above, is:

Siegel, Rebecca L., Kimberly D. Miller, and Ahmedin Jemal. “Cancer Statistics, 2020.” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 70, no. 1 (2020): 7-30.

Those in Their 80s, Ceteris Paribus, Less Likely to Be Offered Bypass Surgery

(p. B6) A U.S. study out Wednesday finds that heart attack patients who turned 80 within the previous two weeks were less likely to get bypass surgery than those who were two weeks shy of that birthday, even though the age difference is less than a month.

Guidelines do not limit the operation after a certain age, but doctors may be mentally classifying people as being “in their 80s” and suddenly much riskier than those “in their 70s,” said the study leader, Dr. Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School.

. . .

Death rates during the first two months after the heart attack were higher among those over 80, suggesting they might have been harmed by not being offered surgery, Jena said.

For the full story, see:

Marilynn Marchione / The Associated Press. “80 Is Not the New 70: Study Finds That Your Age May Bias Heart Care.” The Omaha World-Herald (Wednesday, February 20, 2020): 3A.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “80 Is Not the New 70: Age May Bias Heart Care, Study Finds.” Where there are slight differences in the wording of the online and print versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

“Dr. Dyson’s Mind Burned Until the End”

(p. B12) Freeman J. Dyson, a mathematical prodigy who left his mark on subatomic physics before turning to messier subjects like Earth’s environmental future and the morality of war, died on Friday [February 28, 2020] at a hospital near Princeton, N.J. He was 96.

. . .

As a young graduate student at Cornell University in 1949, Dr. Dyson wrote a landmark paper — worthy, some colleagues thought, of a Nobel Prize — that deepened the understanding of how light interacts with matter to produce the palpable world. The theory the paper advanced, called quantum electrodynamics, or QED, ranks among the great achievements of modern science.

. . .

Dr. Dyson called himself a scientific heretic and warned against the temptation of confusing mathematical abstractions with ultimate truth.

. . .

Relishing the role of iconoclast, he confounded the scientific establishment by dismissing the consensus about the perils of man-made climate change as “tribal group-thinking.” He doubted the veracity of the climate models, and he exasperated experts with sanguine predictions they found rooted less in science than in wishfulness: Excess carbon in the air is good for plants, and global warming might forestall another ice age.

In a profile of Dr. Dyson in 2009 in The New York Times Magazine, his colleague Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate, observed, “I have the sense that when consensus is forming like ice hardening on a lake, Dyson will do his best to chip at the ice.”

Dr. Dyson’s distrust of mathematical models had earlier led him to challenge predictions that the debris from atomic warfare could blot out the sun and bring on a devastating nuclear winter. He said he wished that were true — because it would add to the psychological deterrents to nuclear war — but found the theory wanting.

For all his doubts about the ability of mortals to calculate anything so complex as the effects of climate change, he was confident enough in our toolmaking to propose a technological fix: If carbon dioxide levels became too high, forests of genetically altered trees could be planted to strip the excess molecules from the air. That would free scientists to confront problems he found more immediate, like the alleviation of poverty and the avoidance of war.

He considered himself an environmentalist. “I am a tree-hugger, in love with frogs and forests,” he wrote in 2015 in The Boston Globe. “More urgent and more real problems, such as the overfishing of the oceans and the destruction of wildlife habitat on land, are neglected, while the environmental activists waste their time and energy ranting about climate change.” That was, to say the least, a minority position.

. . .

Richard Feynman, a young professor at Cornell, had invented a novel method to describe the behavior of electrons and photons (and their antimatter equivalent, positrons). But two other physicists, Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, had each independently devised a very different way. Each of these seemed to satisfy the requirements of both quantum mechanics and special relativity — two of nature’s acid tests. But which one was correct?

While crossing Nebraska on a Greyhound bus, Dr. Dyson was struck by an epiphany: The theories were mathematically equivalent — different ways of saying the same thing. The result was QED. Feynman called it “the jewel of physics — our proudest possession.”

. . .

Dr. Dyson’s mind burned until the end. In 2012, when he was 88, he collaborated with William H. Press on a paper about the prisoner’s dilemma, a mathematical concept important to understanding human behavior and the nature of evolution.

In his 90s, Dr. Dyson was still consulting for the government — on nuclear reactor design and the new gene-editing technology called CRISPR. In 2018, the year he turned 95, his book “Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters” was published.

For the full obituary, see:

George Johnson. “Freeman Dyson, 96, Math Genius, Tech Visionary and Writer, Is Dead.” The New York Times (Saturday, February 29, 2020): B12.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Feb. 28, 2020, and has the title “Freeman Dyson, Math Genius Turned Visionary Technologist, Dies at 96.”)

Rapamycin Will Be Tested to Extend Lifespan of Dogs

(p. 1A) SEATTLE (AP) — Can old dogs teach us new tricks? Scientists are looking for 10,000 pets for the largest-ever study of aging in canines. They hope to shed light on human longevity too.

The project will collect a pile of pooch data: vet records, DNA samples, gut microbes and information on food and walks. Five hundred dogs will test a pill that could slow the aging process.

“What we learn will potentially be good for dogs and has great potential to translate to human health,” said project co-director Daniel Promislow of the University of Washington School of Medicine.

. . .

(p. 2A) Dogs weighing at least 40 pounds will be eligible for an experiment with rapamycin, now taken by humans to prevent rejection of transplanted kidneys. The drug has extended lifespan in mice. A small safety study in dogs found no dangerous side effects, said project co-director Matt Kaeberlein of the University of Washington.

For the full story, see:

Carla K. Johnson of The Associated Press. “Needed: 10,000 Dogs for Project That Could Also Benefit Humans.” Omaha World-Herald (Thursday, Nov. 15, 2019): 1A-2A.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 17 [sic], 2019, and has the title “Old dogs, new tricks: 10,000 pets needed for science.”)

“Rejuvenate Bio” Startup Succeeds in Using Gene Therapy to Fight Age-Related Diseases in Mice

The online PNAS article mentioned below includes the information that one of the article’s referees was Aubrey de Grey, Cambridge scientist, and co-author of The End of Aging. Aubrey de Grey has been arguing for many years that anti-aging research will only take-off when proof-of-concept is achieved with mice. The PNAS article summarized below, appears to provide that proof-of-concept.

(p. A13) North Grafton, Mass.

A Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Shadow was at the front lines of a new approach to gene therapy.

Earlier this month, 7-year-old Shadow was the first dog to be screened at Tufts University for a pilot study attempting to use gene therapy to treat a type of heart disease that often afflicts aging cavaliers.

It’s part of a novel approach to gene therapy that has successfully treated age-related ailments in mice. Now it is being studied in dogs, with eventual hopes to test it in humans.

Researchers reported their success in mice in a study published Monday [Nov. 4, 2019] in the journal PNAS. They treated four age-related diseases in mice using genetic therapy: heart and kidney failure, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. On average, the mice experienced a 58% increase in heart function, a 75% reduction in kidney degradation, and normalized weight and blood-sugar levels in mice fed a high-fat diet, the study found.

. . .

What’s interesting about the new research in mice is that it is broader—targeting not a single rare defect, but common age-related ailments. The experiments injected mice with DNA to create an extra copy of a healthy gene, expressing more healthy material in cells linked to common diseases of aging.

The goal of the biotech company behind the mice study, Rejuvenate Bio —which sprang from research out of the lab of Harvard geneticist George Church, who is a co-founder—is to treat multiple aging-related diseases in dogs. It recently started working with Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine on the dog pilot. If successful in dogs, the company hopes to treat similar human diseases but says that will take a lot more resources and time.

The firm says it expects the cost of dog genetic therapies would be similar to dog cancer treatments, including surgery, which range from about $500 to $8,000.

. . .

Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, praised the PNAS study as a proof of concept . . .

For the full story, see:

Sumathi Reddy. “YOUR HEALTH; Gene Therapy Targets Aging.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2019): A13.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 4, 2019, and has the title “YOUR HEALTH; A New Approach to Gene Therapy—Now In Dogs, Maybe Later In Humans.”)

The PNAS article, summarized in the passages quoted above, is:

Davidsohn, Noah, Matthew Pezzone, Andyna Vernet, Amanda Graveline, Daniel Oliver, Shimyn Slomovic, Sukanya Punthambaker, Xiaoming Sun, Ronglih Liao, Joseph V. Bonventre, and George M. Church. “A Single Combination Gene Therapy Treats Multiple Age-Related Diseases.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) (Nov. 4, 2019): https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1910073116.

The book co-authored by Aubrey de Grey, and mentioned way above, is:

de Grey, Aubrey, and Michael Rae. Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007.

45 Is Average Age of Gazelle Founders

(p. B7) It took an entrepreneur to reimagine the mundane home thermostat as an object of beauty — and then to make a fortune based on that vision.

The entrepreneur was Tony Fadell, who had that thermostat epiphany after decades in the tech industry, including at companies like Apple. Mr. Fadell embodied his idea in a new company, Nest, which he started with the help of a colleague from Apple in 2010, at age 41.

The Nest thermostat had a sleek and intuitive design, smartphone connectivity and the ability to learn its owner’s temperature-setting habits. The product was a big hit, and within a few years Google acquired Nest for $3.2 billion.

Mr. Fadell’s deep experience and relatively mature age when he started Nest are typical of superstar entrepreneurs, who are rarely fresh out of college — or freshly dropped out of college. That’s what a team of economists discovered when they analyzed high-growth companies in the United States. Their study is being published in the journal American Economic Review: Insights.

The researchers looked at start-ups established between 2007 and 2014 and analyzed the top 0.1 percent — defined as those with the fastest growth in employment and sales. The average age of those companies’ founders was 45.

For the full commentary, see:

Seema Jayachandran. “ECONOMIC VIEW; High-Flying Tech Has a Touch of Gray.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, September 1, 2019): B7.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 29, 2019, and has the title “ECONOMIC VIEW; Founders of Successful Tech Companies Are Mostly Middle-Aged.”)

The forthcoming article mentioned above, is:

Azoulay, Pierre, Benjamin Jones, J. Daniel Kim, and Javier Miranda. “Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship.” American Economic Review: Insights (forthcoming).

“Our Creative Yield Increases with Age”

(p. C1) . . . precocious achievement is the exception, not the norm. The fact is, we mature and develop at different rates. All of us will have multiple cognitive peaks throughout our lives, and the talents and passions that we have to offer can emerge across a range of personal circumstances, not just in formal educational settings focused on a few narrow criteria of achievement. Late bloomers are everywhere once you know to look for them.

. . .

What about creativity and innovation? That realm must belong to the young, with their exuberance and fresh ideas, right? Not necessarily. For instance, the average age of scientists when they are doing work that eventually leads to a Nobel Prize is 39, according to a 2008 Northwestern University study. The average age of U.S. patent applicants is 47.

Our creative yield increases with age, says Elkhonon Goldberg, a clinical professor of neurology at New York University. Dr. Goldberg thinks that the brain’s right and left hemispheres are connected by a “salience network” that helps us to evaluate novel perceptions from the right side by comparing them to the stored images and patterns on our left side. Thus a child will have greater novel perceptions than a middle-aged adult but will lack the context to turn them into creative insights.

Take Ken Fisher, who today runs Fisher Investments, a stock fund with $100 billion under management and 50,000 customers. After graduating from high school, he flunked out of a junior college. “I had no particular direction,” he said. He went back to school to study forestry, hoping for a career outdoors, but switched to economics and got his degree in 1972. In his early 20s, he hung out his shingle as a financial adviser, following his father’s career. To bring in extra money, he took construction jobs, and he played slide guitar in a bar. But he also read and read: “Books about management and business—and maybe thirty trade magazines a month for years,” he says. By the time he reached his 30s, an idea had gelled that would make him his fortune. As he puts it, during that period of reflection, “I developed a theory about valuing companies that was a bit unconventional.”

For the full commentary, see:

Rich Karlgaard. “It’s Never Too Late to Start a Brilliant Career; Our obsession with early achievement shortchanges people of all ages. Research shows that our brains keep developing deep into adulthood and so do our capabilities.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, May 4, 2019): C1-C2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 3, 2019, and has the same title as the print version.)

The the passages quoted above, are from a commentary that is adapted from:

Karlgaard, Rich. Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement. New York: Currency, 2019.

The research by Elkhonon Goldberg, mentioned above, is described in:

Goldberg, Elkhonon. Creativity: The Human Brain in the Age of Innovation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

How Drinking Coffee Makes Us Younger and More Open-Minded

(p. C2) . . . , if a baby monkey heard a new sound pattern many times, her neurons (brain cells) would adjust to respond more to that sound pattern. Older monkeys’ neurons didn’t change in the same way.

At least part of the reason for this lies in neurotransmitters, chemicals that help to connect one neuron to another. Young animals have high levels of “cholinergic” neurotransmitters that make the brain more plastic, easier to change. Older animals start to produce inhibitory chemicals that counteract the effect of the cholinergic ones. They actually actively keep the brain from changing.

. . .

In the new research, Jay Blundon and colleagues at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., tried to restore early-learning abilities to adult mice. As in the earlier experiments, they exposed the mice to a new sound and recorded whether their neurons changed in response. But this time the researchers tried making the adult mice more flexible by keeping the inhibitory brain chemicals from influencing the neurons.

In some studies, they actually changed the mouse genes so that the animals no longer produced the inhibitors in the same way. In others, they injected other chemicals that counteracted the inhibitors. (Caffeine seems to work in this way, by counteracting inhibitory neurotransmitters. That’s why coffee makes us more alert and helps us to learn.)

In all of these cases in the St. Jude study, the adult brains started to look like the baby brains.

For the full commentary, see:

Alison Gopnik. “MIND & MATTER; How to Get Old Brains to Think Like Young Ones.” The New York Times (Saturday, July 8, 2017): C2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 7, 2017, and has the same title as the print version.)

The article co-authored by Jay Blundon and mentioned above,is:

Blundon, Jay A., Noah C. Roy, Brett J. W. Teubner, Jing Yu, Tae-Yeon Eom, K. Jake Sample, Amar Pani, Richard J. Smeyne, Seung Baek Han, Ryan A. Kerekes, Derek C. Rose, Troy A. Hackett, Pradeep K. Vuppala, Burgess B. Freeman, and Stanislav S. Zakharenko. “Restoring Auditory Cortex Plasticity in Adult Mice by Restricting Thalamic Adenosine Signaling.” Science 356, no. 6345 (June 30, 2017): 1352-56.

In Batteries We Don’t Need Perfect; We Need Goodenough

(p. B5) In the race to make the next leap in battery technology, there is a 96-year-old who won’t give up.

Four decades ago, John Goodenough helped invent the battery that is used to charge cellphones, iPads and many other of today’s electronic goods. His work made batteries more powerful and portable by introducing lithium cobalt oxide to their inner workings.

Now Dr. Goodenough wants to kill off that creation by removing the cobalt that meant his lithium-ion battery could charge faster and last longer. In April [2018], the World War II veteran published research with three co-authors that he said is being used to develop a prototype of a liquid-free and cobalt-free battery.

“My mission is to try to see if I can transform the battery world before I die,” Dr. Goodenough says. “When I’m no longer able to drive and I’m forced to go into a nursing home, then I suppose I will be retiring.”

. . .

“He is driven by scientific curiosity, and he really wants to do something for society with the science he does,” says Arumugam Manthiram, a professor of engineering at the University of Texas at Austin who has worked with Dr. Goodenough for 33 years.

. . .

Dr. Goodenough arrives at the university between 8 and 8.30 a.m. and leaves around 6 p.m., working from home throughout the weekend, Dr. Manthiram says.

. . .

Despite having dyslexia, Dr. Goodenough excelled and went to study mathematics at Yale University.

. . .

. . . , Dr. Goodenough is supervising what he says is his final doctoral candidate, a 24-year-old materials science and engineering student.

“Dr. Goodenough says I’m going to be his last Ph.D. student, but apparently he says that every couple of years and then takes on new candidates,” says student Nick Grundish.

For the full story, see:

Sarah McFarlane. “Meet the 96-Year-Old Battery Pioneer Who Keeps Going and Going.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018): B5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 9, 2018, and the title “The Battery Pioneer Who, at Age 96, Keeps Going and Going.”)