JLA – Japan Longevity Alliance

  My name is John Leonard and lead activist for the Japan Longevity Alliance (JLA). We are part of a parent group which is called the International Longevity Alliance or ILA. The International Longevity Alliance promotes the social struggle against the deteriorative aging process and for healthy and productive longevity for all, through scientific research, technological development, medical treatment, public health and education measures, and social activism.  

 How JLA got Started

I came across Longevity Party group on Facebook in July of 2012. The group seemed interesting but I was a bit cautious with the word “Party* as part of the title. Was this some type of strange political party? I am not very interested in politics and am not a bit political in anything. However, the topic was intriguing and I wanted to know if extending one’s life is possible. Still, could this group be some type of crazy cult, I wondered. As I started to interact with the people in this group and I found there were real professionals in various technical fields. I was soon impressed with the type of people in this group from all over the world. I did notice however, I was the only one living in Japan that was a member of this group at the time. In the fall of 2012, I got a surprise personal message from Ilia Stambler – the lead of this Longevity Party, asking me if I wanted to create a group to represent Japan. As I was feeling new to all of this and still trying to learn about what longevity was all about , I declined. How could I lead on something I myself was still debating about with myself? Although I have lived in Japan for over 30 years and speak Japanese, I am not a Japanese citizen…yet.  Also, I have no ties to any political or research groups. I felt like I could not make any positive contributions. A few months later Ilia created another group called International Longevity Alliance. The new approach of this group seemed less threatening as the word “Party” in the name was removed. At the same time, I was reading up on extreme life extension articles and essays that told me that anyone can make a difference. Maybe if I start to advocate the importance of one lifespan, I could also make a difference here in Japan as well. At the very beginning of January 2013, I approached Mr. Stambler and told him I will create the “ Longevity Party Japan”. Ironically, I started with the word Party in the name mainly because all the other international groups were calling themselves “Longevity Party ” and I was trying to follow the standard format. After a few months, I noticed that other countries were changing their name to Longevity Alliance and so I did the same. On June 2013, I started to promote JLA.  

 JLA Website

One of the important actions I found I needed to do was to try to attract researches in Japan about our cause. I was able to send out a few letters earlier this year but did not get any replies. I felt I needed to change my approach and messaged Ilia Stambler on my concern. He explained that in order for any institute to take JLA seriously, it is best to start by creating a legitimate website. Social Networking is good platform for people who are already interested in extending longevity but do not show any real structure or commitment. On the other hand, creating a website for such cause will display a professional format and allows one to introduce our cause in a more formal format. I published the japanlongevityalliance.org website in June of 2013. With the launch of JLA website, I feel there is now a platform to properly reach out to organizations including the Japanese general public and have a place of reference for people to visit.  

Japan Research

Shinzo Abe became Prime Minister of Japan on December 26th, 2012. Abe lead his newly elected Liberal Democratic Party government to invest into Life sciences. From his 10.3 trillion yen economic stimulus package which was approved by the cabinet on January 15 2013, he was able to create a big stimulus package for stem-cell research, especially geared toward clinical applications. The science ministry alone has earmarked ¥21.4 billion for research on stem cells, mainly focused on induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells — reprogrammed adult cells, first developed in Japan. This comes on the heels of Shinya Yamanaka who was awarded for the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. His discovery showed that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent. Induced pluripotent stem cells, commonly abbreviated as iPS cells or iPSCs, have a self-renewal ability and pluripotency, which means they can divide and replicate indefinitely. This type of research is vital toward radical life extension. The Riken Center for Developmental biology in Kyoto is the biggest and most funded in Japan for iPS cell research and application development. Much of the research money that comes from Japan’s science ministry goes directly into Riken research. In fact, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself visited their labs with Shinya Yamanaka showing off their latest developments. It does not hurt to have a prime minister so interested in life sciences. Japan does have a unique problem however. Japan has a population containing some of the oldest living humans on this planet. As the baby boomers are starting to enter into their senior years, the health support will be staggering in care and costs. This concern is called the Longevity Dividend in the west, and essentially claims that the rise in healthcare needs by the aging baby-boomer generation will mean that supporting research and development in the life-extension field may be the only way to ameliorate the economic strain put on the healthcare budgets of countries by the aging baby-boomers. The Japanese government is eager to find cures to aging related diseases to avoid a natural economic disaster. The good news is that by investing in Regenerative Biology, the technology will allow aging Japanese people to live healthy and hopefully disease free. Part of bi-product of such engineering will allow humans to live longer and healthy lifespans.  

Actions of JLA

Although Japanese life science research has been given an economic boost from the government, the public needs to keep the momentum going. For JLA perspective, we can help by joining the ILA movement in 2 important yearly global events – Future Day and Longevity Day. JLA had our first gathering for Future Day on March 1st. Although it was only 3 of us, it still marked a small step in the life extending movement history. Longevity Day for Japan event is already in the planning stages for Oct. 1st. 2013. If you live in Japan and are reading this article, I urge you to contact me. However, anyone can join JLA FB group where I will announce events along with global and national research news.


The ILA Manifesto

The Manifesto was created early this year by the ILA. It is the statement which all countries including Japan advocate.

We advocate the advancement of healthy longevity for the entire population through scientific research, public health, advocacy and social activism. We emphasize and promote the struggle against the chief enemy of healthy longevity – the aging process. The aging process is the root of most chronic diseases afflicting the world population. This process causes the largest proportion of disability and mortality, and needs to be treated accordingly. Society needs to dedicate efforts toward its treatment and correction, as for any other material disease. The problem of aging is grave and threatening. Yet, we often witness an almost complete oblivion to its reality and severity. There is a soothing tendency to ignore the future, to distract the mind from aging and death from aging, and even to present aging and death in a misleading, apologetic and utopian light. At the same time, there is an unfounded belief that aging is a completely unmanageable, inexorable process. This disregard of the problem and this unfounded sense of impotence do not contribute to the improvement of the well-being of the aged and their healthy longevity. There is a need to present the problem in its full severity and importance and to act for its solution or mitigation to the best of our ability. We call to raise the public awareness of the problem of aging in its full scope. We call the public to recognize this severe problem and dedicate efforts and resources – including economic, social-political, scientific, technological and media resources – to its maximal possible alleviation for the benefit of the aging population, for their healthy longevity. We promote the idea that mental and spiritual maturation and the increase in healthy longevity are not synonymous with aging and deterioration. We advocate the reinforcement and acceleration of basic and applied biomedical research, as well as the development of technological, industrial, environmental, public health and educational measures, specifically directed at healthy longevity. If given sufficient support, such measures can increase the healthy life expectancy of the aged population, the period of their productivity, their contributions to the development of society and economy, as well as their sense of enjoyment, purpose and valuation of life. We advocate that the development of scientific measures for healthy life extension be given the maximal possible public and political support that it deserves, not only by the professional community but also by the broader public.