January 03, 2009

Nutrigenomics and life extension

Nutrigenomics is the study of molecular relationships between nutrition and the response of genes, with the aim of extrapolating how such subtle changes can affect human health. Nutrigenomics focuses on the effect of nutrients on the genome, proteome, and metabolome. By determining the mechanism of the effects of nutrients or the effects of a nutritional regime, Nutrigenomics tries to define the relationship between these specific nutrients and specific nutrient regimes (diets) on human health. Nutrigenomics has been associated with the idea of personalized nutrition based on genotype. There is hope that nutrigenomics will ultimately enable such personalised dietary advice.
A mainstream belief is that the impact over the next ten years on public health will be minor.

OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology has a free issue on Nutrigenomics.

The expectations from nutrigenomics science are substantial. An important promise of nutrigenomics stems from its strong focus on public health and prevention/modification of “pre-disease phenotypes” in apparently healthy individuals. This coincides with a recent shift in emphasis in the biosciences toward treatment of future disease susceptibilities (i.e., preemptive medicine) rather than alleviation of established disease (Ozdemir and Godard, 2007b; Rose, 2006). Thus, in contrast to previous applications of genomics technologies where the goal is to distinguish existing disease from absence of disease, nutrigenomics aims to discern nuanced differences in predisease states such that personalized dietary interventions can be designed to prevent or modify future disease susceptibility.

Gregory Benford talks about the potential of nutrigenomics in his answer to the 2009 Edge question " What will change everything?" Benford answers people living to 150 years or more.

Knowledge comes first, then its use. Science yields engineering. Already there seems no fundamental reason why we cannot live to 150 years or longer. After all, nature has done quite well on her own. We know of a 4,800-year-old bristlecone pine, a 400 year old clam—plus whales, a tortoise and koi fish over 200 years old—all without technology. After all, these organisms use pathways we share, and can now understand.

It will take decades to find the many ways of acting on the longevity genes we already know. Nature spent several billion years developing these pathways; we must plumb them with smart modern tools. The technology emerging now acts on these basic pathways to immediately effect all types of organs. Traditionally, medicine focuses on disease by isolating and studying organs. Fair enough, for then. Now it is better to focus on entire organisms. Only genomics can do this. It looks at the entire picture.

Quite soon, simple pills containing designer supplements will target our most common disorders — cardiovascular, diabetes, neurological. Beyond that, the era of affordable, personal genomics makes possible designer supplements, now called neutrigenomics. Tailored to each personal genome, these can enforce the repair mechanisms and augmentations that nature herself provided to the genomically fortunate.

So…what if it works?

Gregory Benford's company is Genescient

A science primer is provided at the Genescient site

Using our 100 proprietary longevity gene pathways, combined with the public data on human gene dysfunction associated with age-related disease, we have identified Designer Therapeutics for the genetic pathways controlling aging. In selecting compounds to test, we search the published literature for compounds that act on one or more of our proprietary genetic pathways of aging. Genescient has sophisticated software that cross links gene function in Drosophila with possible human therapeutics for age-related diseases. Drosophila is an excellent model system of aging and age-related disease that has many genetic pathways that are highly conserved in humans. Therefore, therapeutic substances that act on genetic pathways in Drosophila often work similarly in humans.

The speed and efficacy of our Drosophila testing allows us to test various combinations of compounds to acquire a highly synergistic set of compounds that act through differing aging pathways. This adds greatly to the therapeutic efficacy of the final treatment. Slowing the aging process requires several compounds, acting on several genetic pathways simultaneously. Our screening procedure allows us to identify quickly the best combinations of compounds that can act simultaneously on multiple genetic networks (cardiovascular, metabolic, neurological, etc).

When we find a multipath set of therapeutic compounds, we then do final nutrigenomic testing in humans. We establish dosage levels by prior literature data and our own testing. Once a group of 3 to 4 nutrigenomic compounds has been identified as synergistic in Drosophila, we can evaluate therapeutic efficacy of the nutrigenomic combination in humans using clinical tests such as: athletic performance, cognitive performance, lung capacity, skin elasticity, blood lipids, serum glucose, as well as inflammatory markers like CRP and IL-6. For any particular age-related disease, our proprietary therapeutic compounds could also be tested in specific disease mouse models or in human clinical trials.

Genescient’s Designer Therapeutics fine tune the body’s gene expression to mimic genetically selected longevity and reduced all cause mortality. This approach is in marked contrast to competing Pharma and biotech companies that focus on a single age-related disease or disorder. Genescient is the first company to develop genetic Designer Therapeutics to delay aging and the age-related diseases.

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