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Nobel scientist Rita Levi-Montalcini dies, aged 103 (haaretz.com)
79 points by wslh 1755 days ago | hide | past | web | 23 comments | favorite

Her longevity may not be an accident: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/is-this-the-secret...

"Every day, she takes NGF in the form of eye drops"

The nootropics community would find this very interesting. I wonder what the process of NGF isolation entails (or if she published anything about the process).

Unfortunately, NGF seems to be more or less unavailable to the public.

I found the same thing, but lion's mane mushroom did come up


I took an extract for a while and thought it might be doing something, but I didn't collect any data so it's hard to draw conclusions.

Fred Beckey [1] has long been one of my heroes for how to age gracefully - he will turn 90 next month, and still climbs hard.

This article just gave me a new model for aging well. I turned 40 this month, and I feel more alive intellectually than I ever have. It is inspiring to think that I could continue to build on what I already know for another 60 years.

[1] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Beckey

Everyone seems to focus on the fact that she was 103. That's not her greatest achievement. As a jewish woman she faced many obstacles in her career, was forced to work at home, immigrated to the US and finally discovered NGF, for which she won the Nobel prize. She was also a senator for life and a star scientist in Italy.


As I've aged, I've come to the conclusion that people become "old" more by choice than by the passage of time.

She was involved in a scandal involving a drug called Cronassial, a pharmaceutical industry called Fidia and the Nobel committee. Through various donations, Fidia (at the time a small pharmaceutical company) used the scientist from 1975 onwards to market a new panacea drug called Cronassial (which was banned in the Nineties across Europe as it was linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome and possibly because of the human spongiform encephalopathy scare). The drug was approved thanks to the corrupt hand of Duilio Poggiolini (with the ministry of health) who was finally arrested in 1993. Fidia's "collaboration" with the scientist culminated in 1986 with the Nobel prize, for which Fidia seems to have corrupted at least one of the committee members with 8 million dollars [1], fact that came out during the Italian corruption trials in the first part of the Nineties.

It seems that Fidia's revenue jumped a 1000 folds thanks to Cronassial, apparently from 600 million Lire to 420 billion, with the drug representing 82% of the revenue, but I wasn't able to find a source for that.

It's quite unfortunate Levi-Montalcini never came clean of this scandal, refusing to comment on anything related to Cronassial and claiming ignorance of the facts.

Disappointing as all this might be, NGF is a great discovery which is well worth a Nobel prize and she seems to have been a very good scientist too.

1) Nilsson M. Nobel committee refutes allegations of corruption. Lancet 1995; 346: 763-4.

It should be noted that, on balance, everything except physical health becomes better with age. Outside of degenerative aging, becoming older is so good that people are driven to apologism for the fact that aging cripples and kills them - they conflate being old and being aged, seeing two very different things as one, and a certain confusion arises after that point.

Consider how much better it will be to be older once we start being able to treat the root causes of the degenerative medical condition called aging. If you're not there yet, consider just how good being older must be in order for people to be able to say they are well off even while their health is crumbling.


Yes, everything except physical health becomes better with age. Oh, better add mental health to the list of exceptions:



Wait a sec.. if you're declining physically and mentally, then what else is there?

And, potentially, mental health - though the variance between people is huge. While my grandfather (mother's side) was mentally as sharp as he'd ever been when he died at 92 and my 94 year old grandmother (father's side) still plays bridge several times a week and has a fantastic memory for everything related to the family, it's also all too easy to find people who have been afflicted with dementia and alzheimer's from their 70s and 80s.

Mental health in that sense is physical health - age-related mental decline is caused failure in the physical processes of the brain. E.g. loss of blood vessel integrity, buildup of aggregates, diminished stem cell activity in response to rising cellular damage, etc.

Ever heard of the SENS Foundation and Aubrey de Grey? They seem to be working on what you described.

Imagine how much wiser we'd be as humans if we'd all live 500 years, and be in good physical health most of that time.

Well, that partly depends. There's some talk - I don't know how accurate - that scientific thought is actually updated when the people holding the old views start dying out... If that's really true, and we wind up holding on to the same wrong ideas for 500 years instead of 100, I'm not sure we'd be lots further along. Of course, we might well have noticed the problem and done more about it, or something... or the effect may not be real (or particularly strong) in the first place.

Didn't Albert Einstein and his generation lived through two revolutions in physics?

The problem with your idea is that history is changing constantly(and more so these days). What we come to believe in one decade will probably change drastically in the next decade as we accumulate new experience.

Yes. Although I am in favor of life extension, I worry about the consequences for politics if people like Fidel Castro or Kim Jong Il were to live for 500 years. Or for that matter, for tech if Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison lived that long.


Here is a short piece on the immortal dictator argument that shows up from time to time as one of the reasons given to continue to let billions die of aging: "But what if, the critics continue, you had a dictator who could live more or less for thousands of years? Wouldn't it be a good thing if he was guaranteed to die at some point and the people he oppressed had a chance to start anew? Wouldn't the sacrifice be worth it? No, it wouldn't, and here's why. Basically, we're being asked to give a potential means of extending our life spans so we can be sure that just a small handful of people and their cronies would be dead at some point in time. We can't always kill them or depose them, so we'll be outsourcing the assassination to nature. Anyone see the problem here? Of the over seven billion people who aren't dictators, who do we think is expendable enough to die alongside our targets for the sake of the anti-dictator cause? If I may reach for a little hyperbole, how different is the logic that all the billions who will die in the process are fair game because their death helps the cause from that of all terrorist groups who believe that civilians of the countries they hate can be on the hit list because killing them hurts an enemy and may force him to retreat? This is a rather crass way of saying that the ends justify the means and I doubt that they really do in this case. We could take this logic further and cast all modern medicine as being a dictator enabling technology. Maybe last week Assad would've tripped, fallen, hurt himself, then got his wound infected and was soon dead from septic shock, helping to end the civil war in Syria. Does this mean we must now give up our disinfectants and advanced medical treatments to make sure bad people die easier?"

This is not quite addressing the point, I think. The appropriate thing is to bite the bullet - it's probably true and unfortunate that some dictatorial regimes would last longer. It's not a very hard bullet, though - if we are viewing aging as a weapon against dictators, it's a pretty poor one; a nuclear ICBM strike on Pyongyang would be, by comparison, surgical.

A true dictator could reserve life extension technology only for himself and his cronies. It would be the ultimate weapon for political control.

I actually agree that the potential benefits outweigh the risks. But as with all transhumanist technology, the risks are quite enormous.

There is ALWAYS a way to assasinate someone

And there is also Nature to do the killing: Flu.

This is a sad day. Everyone seems to be touched here in Italy.

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