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Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.

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8:30 AM EST, Monday, May 7: Horrible flu/cold all weekend. Doc said take azithromycin; you'll be better in a week. Don't take it; you'll be better in seven days. Doctor humor is worse that dentist humor. My best: Three dentists, each of different specialties, are staring seriously into my mouth. I ask, "My mouth is a disaster?" After a long pause, one replies: "No, Harry, it's an annuity."

How can I live forever? The New York Times interviewed two medical
scientists (Lenny Guarente and Robert N. Butler) about how the body ages and the research on trying to extend our healthy life span. Sad answer from long article: There are no magic bullets, except the obvious lead a healthy life (no smoking), with decent exercise and restrict your calorie intake. Excerpt:

NYTimes: Have you identified genes that can extend health and life span?

GUARENTE: The genes we study counteract aging. First we studied yeast cells, and it took us eight years to identify a gene called SIR2, which protects the cells from damage during the aging process. Then we did a similar experiment in a more complex critter, the roundworm, and what was remarkable is, we identified the same gene. That told us that this type of gene is performing an antiaging function broadly in nature.

Do humans have this gene?

GUARENTE: There’s one gene in our genome, SIRT1, that would be a dead ringer for this one — the technical term is ortholog — but we also have six other genes that have a related sequence to this. They’re called sirtuins, and they’re all going to play a role, but I think the dead ringer is undoubtedly the most important based on experiments that have been done.

You assert a fairly radical concept: that these longevity genes have the power to keep the body supercharged and maintaining its natural repair activities regardless of age. Does that mean we could live, what, another 20, 30 years? Fifty?

GUARENTE: We think the sirtuin genes are there to recognize lack of food or other stressful situations and to spring into action to create a physiology that will promote longevity. The evolutionary value is that in times of stress — food scarcity, for example — this gene would slow down the aging process and keep you alive longer, so that when times are better, you could reproduce.

But how long would the gene work? Maybe it only operates temporarily?

GUARENTE: We can gauge this by asking what happens in rodents on a calorie-restricted diet, which mimics food scarcity and activates the SIR2 gene. Do they live forever? No. They live up to 50 percent longer. So in a perfect world, one would hope that we could live 50 percent longer than the current expected life span.

In our lifetimes, could this happen?

GUARENTE: I think one can expect perhaps another decade of robust health.

ROBERT BUTLER: A lot of it comes down to our willingness in this country to make an investment in the biology of aging. Historically, we’ve devoted our energies and money to studying one disease at a time. At the same time, we have neglected targeting the underlying risk factor of aging.

Are you saying that aging itself leads to disease?

BUTLER: Why does 50 percent of all cancer occur after 65? Why does 80 percent occur after age 50? As we age, there are changes at the cellular molecular level that predispose us to disease and disability. But so far, no government, no foundation, no corporation anywhere in the world has fully embraced the importance of longevity science. If we could target aging, that would have an impact on diseases.

What do you mean “target” aging?

GUARENTE: Slow down aging in the same way that calorie restriction slows down aging. Bob makes an important point about diseases and aging. I believe that the two are intertwined and experimentally this has been demonstrated by using modern strains of mice that have been genetically altered to get specific diseases — for example, neurodegenerative diseases or cancer, or cardiovascular disease or diabetes — and to see whether calorie restriction will either postpone or prevent these diseases. The general finding is that calorie restriction forestalls many of these diseases. The hypothesis is that if one could activate the sirtuin genes — not by a calorie-restricted diet but pharmacologically — then this would have an impact on the diseases of aging.

How close are we to such a drug being available?

GUARENTE: Ten, maybe 15 years. I think the drugs that aim at sirtuins, for example, will be tested initially for a particular disease, say, diabetes. And it will turn out that the drugs have broader benefits than one initially imagined.

Will the stockmarket continue its run? One key is the Fed. If it raises rates because of inflation fears, it will clobber the advance. But inflation may be mixed.

Chart from May 5, Economist

Concludes the Economist in a story called "Stag or 'flation"

Add these mixed signals on growth to the uncertainties about inflation and the chances are that the Fed will simply do nothing for a good while yet. Unlike in fashion, in central banking the underlying trend can take a while to spot.

Why I want Rupert Murdoch to own the Wall Street Journal. He might spend some money on it. The Bancroft family has been sucking the Journal dry, not investing for the future. In 2006, they paid themselves in dividends more than 55% of the Journal's latest earnings. In 2005, they paid themselves 37% more than the company earned. I think Murdoch recognizes beefing up the online version. I'd like to see information on shares on foreign markets, e.g. Australia. Ironically, BusinessWeek has just announced a beefing-up of its Company Insight Center, which is free and on I checked it quickly out this morning. So far, I prefer the Wall Street Journal's site for company material. BusinessWeek's is still in beta and looks it, too.

Download Internet Explorer 7. OK. I'm now willing to recommend you upgrade to Microsoft's free Internet Explorer 7. It's stolen all the Firefox's neatest features -- including multiple tabbed sites and thumbnails of the sites you have open. One recommendation, when you're installing it, don't agree to installing the anti-pfishing and Windows Defender software -- no matter how many times it bugs you. You don't need these irksome add-ons. I'm also guessing my readers are not stupid enough to open email attachments from unknown sources or click on links in emails alerting you to free money or mistakes in PayPal account.

Play Windows Media files in QuickTime on your Apple Mac laptop or desktop. This free Microsoft software will allow you to play Windows video on your Apple computer.

The Preacher's Demonstration
A minister decided that a visual demonstration would add emphasis to his Sunday sermon.

Four worms were placed into four separate jars. The first worm was put into a container of alcohol. The second worm was put into a container of cigarette smoke. The third worm was put into a container of chocolate syrup. The fourth worm was put into a container of good clean soil. At the conclusion of the sermon, the Minister reported the following results:

The first worm in alcohol - Dead.
The second worm in cigarette smoke - Dead .
Third worm in chocolate syrup - Dead.
Fourth worm in good clean soil - Alive.

So the Minister asked the congregation - What can you learn from this demonstration?

Maxine was sitting in the back, quickly raised her hand and said,

"As long as you drink, smoke and eat chocolate, you won't have worms!"

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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