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BIL-PIL Conference October 9, 2009

Posted by Matt Brown in Transhumanism.
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I will be attending the BIL-PIL Healthcare Innovation Conference on October 30-31 in San Diego and like a kid going to his first day of school I’m excited.  For those who don’t know the BIL-PIL conference is an offshoot of the BIL conference, a medical technology conference that has positioned itself as an alternative to the TED conference.  Like the BIL conference, BIL-PIL is held in what they are calling the unconference format.  Basically what that means is there are no fees to attend, no sponsored speakers and theoretically anyone can attend and participate.  Think of it as the open source model of conferences.

Anyways, as the name implies the BIL-PIL conference covers healthcare and medical technology and while it is not strictly a transhumanist event the issues that will be discussed are all transhumanist issues.  To quote from the website:

A few examples of topics to be addressed by those already scheduled to speak:

  • What are the consequences of the personal genomics revolution?
  • How can patients relate to each other as never before using Web 2.0 technologies?
  • How can science address life extension and aging?
  • How can diagnostics more accurately match a patient to the right therapy?
  • What does new legislation imply for the future of the biotechnology industry?
  • How can we revolutionize the way we think about paying for healthcare?
  • What if your iPhone could “look” at your pills and spot a possible drug interaction?

Genomics?  Life extension?  Biotechnology?  We might as well be reading Citizen Cyborg.  For those of you in San Diego or with the means to get there I really suggest checking this conference out.  Should be a fun time with lots of interesting info presented.  Oh, and I did mention it was free right?

New Longevity Enhancer Found October 1, 2009

Posted by Matt Brown in Longevity, Nutrition.
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It seems like a new longevity enhancement is popping up every week these days so here’s another one to add to the list.  Researchers at the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College London have managed to extend the life of by up to 20% while reducing the number of age related diseases they experienced.  The method they used to achieve this is gene therapy, specifically altering the mice to block production of the S6 Kinase protein, which plays a role in protein synthesis, cell proliferation and how the body responds to food intake.  This therapy produces an effect similar to caloric restriction.

Now if you’ll allow me to digress slightly, those of you who have been paying attention may have noticed a pattern in regards to all the new longevity enhancers currently being tested.  Rapamycin inhibits the mTOR protein, which regulates cell growth, cell proliferation, transcription and protein synthesis and is stimulated by insulin (among other things.)  Metformin, a drug that may have some life extension capabilities, is more commonly used to treat type-II diabetes, which as you surely know is caused by the body having a resistance and often over-abundance of insulin. Caloric restriction probably has numerous factors which give it it’s effects but one notable thing it does is lower insulin levels in the body (less calories mean less blood sugar, which means less insulin.)  Now we have S6 Kinase which as I said above plays a part in how the body responds to food.  What does the body release to take sugar out of the bloodstream after you eat a meal?  You guessed it, insulin.

Now it would be irresponsible and stupid of me to suggest that insulin holds the key to eternal life.  Ageing is a complex process that involves many different factors.  That being said it does seem like most of the promising longevity treatments involve reducing insulin activity.  Perhaps we have a better understanding of insulin’s role in ageing than we do other factors.  Perhaps insulin is simply easier to study and work with.  Perhaps I’m completely wrong and talking out of my ass.  It’s possible, but I doubt it.  It’s well established that an excess of insulin in the body can lead to disastrous effects (see diabetes) and better thinker than I have seen a link between insulin and poor health (Ray Kurzweil in Fantastic Voyage.)  Fact of the matter is, I would put money on the next big longevity enhancers following the same tract as the others: reducing insulin activity.

British Government Looks to Ban Intelligence…Enhancers July 31, 2009

Posted by Matt Brown in Human Enhancement, Transhumanism.
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If I told you that a government was planning on banning performance enhancing drugs because of issues like preventing unfair advantages, you’d probably think I was talking about sports.  You would be wrong.  The British government has recently asked their expert on illegal drugs to look into whether nootropics, intelligence-enhancing drugs, should be banned.  The use of nootropics is becoming a very common phenomena as students and workers search for every possible advantage they can find to get an edge in school or in the workplace.  One study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that in 2002 more than 7 million Americans used intelligence-enhancers, with 1.6 million of those being student age.

So why is the British government spending it’s valuable time talking about banning smart drugs?  It began with a study published by the Academy of Medical Science entitled “Brain Science, Addiction and Drugs.”  The study looked at three types of drugs (recreational drugs, medicine for mental health and cognition enhancers,) assessed the risk of there use and recommended what steps be taken.  I’ll skip the first two parts and go right to cognitive enhancers.  In brief, the study looked at the types of cognitive enhancers that are currently on the market and looked at what effects they have, how they improve cognition and what potential risks come with there use.  The list of drugs was fairly extensive and included some well known ones such as methylphrenidate (Ritalin) and modafinil (Provigil.)  According to the study most of the substances listed have been shown to improve cognition in one way or another (short term memory, learning, focus) though not all improve all areas of cognition and some may even detract from some areas while improving others.

Where the study became interesting is where they began to discuss the ethical issues involved in intelligence-enhancers and what form of regulation may need to be put in place.  The first paragraph of this section went right to the heart of the matter stating:

“Any potential human enhancement challenges traditional ideas about medicine, i.e. that the role of medicine is to overcome some sort of impediment to normal physical or mental functioning, and thereby restore an individual to ‘normal’ health.”

This is a common belief in most of the medical community and has been used by prominent bioconservatives such as Leon Kass as an argument against human enhancement.  Naturally I disagree with this position and it is interesting do note that the study did not come out unequivocally in support of it and made note of the fact that physical enhancement (i.e. cosmetic surgery) has been gaining widespread acceptance.  Unfortunately, it then made quite possibly the stupidest argument against enhancement I have ever heard:

“Currently, individuals with higher than average cognitive abilities are valued and rewarded, but making such attributes available to all individuals could reduce the diversity of cognitive abilities in the population, and change ideas of what is ‘normal’.” (emphasis mine)

If by reduce the diversity of cognitive abilities they mean reduce the number of stupid people then I agree that is what cognitive enhancement could very well do.   What I have a hard time seeing is how this could be anything but a good thing.  In many cases diversity is very desirable since an abundance of different traits in a population often enhances that species adaptability and thus odds of survival.  However there is no benefit to having a diversity of cognitive abilities, to having a population where some people are less intelligent, less creative and more forgetful.  This is akin to saying that some forms of medicine should be abolished because it is might reduce the diversity of health in a population.  There is no benefit to taking this action, and generally that’s a good enough reason not to do it.

As to the popular argument as to whether use of cognitive enhancers should be banned in certain situations such as athletic or competitive event the study didn’t take one side or another, only stating that more discussion was necessary.  It did trot out the same tired argument we hear every time this discussion comes up, that performance enhancers are an unfair advantage.  This was a stupid argument against enhancement in sports and it’s a stupid argument now.  Genetics and upbringing already give some people an advantage over others and if anything cognitive enhancers could help to level the playing field.  It also didn’t address the largely arbitrary way we decide which drugs should be banned and which are acceptable, such as why a powerful stimulant such as caffine is not being considered in this ban or why dangerous drugs like nicotine or alcohol are legal while drugs like cannabis are not.  Please note that I am not advocating the banning of said drugs, quite the opposite, I merely wish to point out the ban’s arbitrary nature.

The study did contain one thing that advocates of human enhancement can look to approvingly.  In closing the study stated :

“Further debate is needed about whether it is, in fact, desirable for pharmaceutical companies to have explicit programmes for developing
cognitive enhancing drugs to be used by ‘healthy’ individuals in non-medical contexts.  If such programmes are found to be desirable, incentives for their development should also be considered.” (emphasis mine)

Could a top science academy be advocating the potential of human enhancement?  Could we be seeing the beginning of a redefinition of the purpose of medicine?  Time will tell.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jul/28/watchdog-intelligence-performance-psychoactive-drugs

What Does It Mean To Be Human July 16, 2009

Posted by Matt Brown in Transhumanism.
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What does it mean to be human?  This question has been with us for as long as we as a species can remember.  Entire libraries could be filled with all the opinions, rebuttals, debates and ruminations that have cropped up around it.   Its answer has confounded our greatest philosophers, eluded our best scientists and even after 10,000 years of recorded history we are still no closer to unraveling it.  It is a question I have no intention of trying to answer here.

You’re probably confused now.  You’re probably scratching your head and thinking, “What is this, a bait-and-switch?  Why did you start this with a question you‘re not going to answer?”  The reason I began this essay with it is because it is a question that is at the heart of much of the debate surrounding human enhancement and needs to be addressed, and the reason I do not intended to answer it is because it is a meaningless question.  You read that right.  It is meaningless, pointless, unimportant.

I am aware of how strange this may sound, but bear with me.  Many of the arguments against human enhancement can be boiled down to the idea that there is something special about humanity, something that would be lost should we begin to drastically change ourselves.  So what are these unique qualities, these traits that we stand to lose?  To answer that we must ask, what is a human?  What defines a being as belonging to humanity?  It is not our tools.  Many animals have been shown to use tools.  What about our intelligence?  It is impressive in its scope but it is certainly not unique.  Self consciousness?  Many animals are aware of their own existence.  Our capacity for kindness and altruism?  Anyone who has owned a pet knows we are not alone in that.  Is it simply a combination of all of these, or is that we do all these things better than the rest of the animal kingdom?  Ah, now that requires a slightly longer answer.  Let us say for the sake of argument that one day we take a dolphin and alter it.  Through genetic engineering and biomechanical augmentation we change it so that it’s abilities rival our own.  It can speak, it can manipulate tools, it can think like we do with long term memory, abstract thinking and problem solving, it can do all the things we can do.  Let us say we do all these things and ask yourself: have we made this dolphin into a human?  No.  We have made it a smarter dolphin, a handier dolphin, a more eloquent dolphin, but through all of this it remains a dolphin.  It does not become a human because it is not our language, our tools, our intelligence or any combination of these or other features that make us human.  A human is defined as belonging to the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens, and the only thing that makes us Homo Sapiens is our DNA, our 36 pairs of chromosomes containing all the genes that when expressed and put together give us a human.   That’s it.

If we except that our genes are all that make us who we are then I put the question to you: what is so special about being human?   Nothing, there is nothing special about being human and therefore there is no special meaning of being human.  If being human is not important, then one of the major arguments against transhumanism and human enhancement falls flat on it‘s face.  Then we are left with a different question; if being human is not important, than what is.  The purpose of this article is not to answer this question but since different people will have different opinions I’ll offer my own here.  What is important is not being human but being a person, where a person is defined as a being capable of self-awareness.

Still, there are those who will never except this more humble position for humanity.  For many of us our whole view of the world is based around the idea that we are at the center of it, an idea that has survived since ancient times.  It used to be that we were at the center of the very universe, put there by the hand of God himself.  When that idea fell by the wayside our position changed slightly.  If we are not the center of the universe we said at least we are the only possible intelligent life in that universe, living on our unique little life bearing planet.  That view was defeated when we saw the sheer size of the universe and found our first extra solar planet.  How, in the face of so many worlds around so many stars in so many galaxies, could we possibly believe that we are the only ones.   If not that, then at least we are the masters of our own planet we said, the top predator on earth, and for 10,000 years we have been.  But that time is coming to an end.

We are approaching a time in the history of our species when the ability to alter ourselves will be in our grasp.  In the coming decades we will gain the ability to change our bodies, our minds, our very DNA.  We can, if we choose, become something other than human.  What will it mean to be post-human.  No more than what it means to be human.

Easter Island Compound Shows Anti-aging Properties July 8, 2009

Posted by Matt Brown in Longevity.
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When I first read this I thought it must either be a joke or some new age mumbo-jumbo, but this seems to be for real.  Scientists have found that a compound called rapamycin, first found on Easter Island, may have longevity enhancing capabilites.  What is more interesting is that it seems to have this effect regardless of what age it is administered.  This could be a big step forward because caloric restriction, the only way outside of gene therapy to increase lifespan, doesn’t seem to be effective when implemented in elderly animals.  Rapamycin, which is also used in stents and transplant operations, seems to affect the same metabolic pathways as caloric restriction but may be a more effective treament because of this.   Another way it may be better than caloric restiriction is that people may actually use it.  Anyone can tell you that asking people to cut down their calories for the rest of their lives is a strategy doomed to fail, but asking people to sprinkle a drug on their food for the same effect is a different story.

http://www.physorg.com/news166279683.html

Fantastic Voyage, Nutritional Advice for Immortality June 3, 2009

Posted by Matt Brown in Longevity, Nutrition.
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There are a plethora of diets on the market today, so it’s somewhat surprising that even with all the low-carb, low-fat, high-carb, high-fiber, Mediterranean, Caveman, celery and what have you diets there is only one diet that promises you immortality if you follow it. Well I suppose that’s not necessarily true. Even though the title of Ray Kurzweil’s and Terry Grossman’s book is Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever the doesn’t actually claim that the diet itself will accomplish that. The premise of the book is that we are on the cusp of developing radical new technologies that will allow us to drastically increase human life span (see Aubrey de Grey) and if you want to live long enough to take advantage of those technologies then you’d better start following the plan outlined in the book. Since I don’t consider myself a book critic this is going to be less a review and more a summary of the information contained within the book as well as my personal opinion on the veracity of some of it’s claims. So, let’s begin.

The first few chapters of the book are essentially introductions. The first one lays the groundwork for the rest of the book by explaining the basic premise which I outlined above. The second chapter outlines the Bridge idea that play’s a major part in the book structure. Basically, Ray and Terry both consider the information in the book to belong to Bridge One, current technologies that can be used to improve health and increase lifespan. These current technologies consist primarily of nutrition and exercise advice, some of which is pretty standard mainstream science and some which, as I’ll show later, is decidedly not. Bridge Two is biotechnology, which at some point in the near future will enable humans to control our biology and genetics and thus improve our health and longevity even further. This will lead to Bridge Three, nanotechnology-AI, at which point we will not be reliant on our biology and will be able to replace many or all of our, according to the book, sub-par biological features. Throughout the book there are side boxes containing information on Bridge Two and Three technologies usually in relation to what ever current technologies the book is talking about. While they are mostly theoretical they are still fun to read and think about and considering the authors ultimate aim is immortality they don’t feel out of place.

Ray and Terry both take a chapter to tell us there personal stories and how they became interested in health and longevity. Ray tells his now pretty famous story of his father passing away at a relatively early age of heart disease, his own diagnosis with diabetes and his subsequent rejection of conventional medicine in favor of at the time radical treatments that ultimately stopped and reversed his diabetes. Terry’s story is also one of growing dissatisfied with conventional medicine though obviously from the view point of a doctor rather than a patient. Both men met at a meeting of the Foresight Institute and struck up a friendship and correspondence, on result of which was ultimately this book. These chapters are nice little asides that give the reader a view it the authors motivations and backgrounds.

Now we come to the important part, what does the book actually say and is any of it true. Considering this book was written by a licensed physician and a genius inventor you probably won’t be surprised to learn that much of it is sound science. The book recommends a relatively high protein, low carb, low fat diet but presents a much more nuanced view than most low-something diets. For carbohydrates the book stresses avoiding foods with a high Glycemic Index (or more specifically a Glycemic Load.) The Glycemic Index is a measurement of how quickly carbs are converted into sugar and make there way into the blood stream. Carbs that break down quickly (candy, potatoes, refined grains) lead to a spike in blood sugar which then leads to a spike in insulin. Over time, heavy spikes in insulin can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. In addition diet recommends eating foods high in fiber as there is some evidence that high fiber diets can lower the risk of certain types of cancer. The book does recommend a much lower carbohydrate level then most diets (between 1/6 and 1/3 of your daily intake, which is still higher than the Atkins diet) but this can partially be explained by its emphasis on low calorie, high fiber carbs like vegetables, beans and whole grains. For fats the book emphasizes unsaturated over saturated fats, which is also good advice. While saturated fats have been linked to atherosclerosis, unsaturated fats have been shown to actually improve lipid profiles and thus aid in heart health. Finally the book also recommends slight calorie restriction, both to aid in weight loss and for the purported longevity benefits. While calorie restriction has not yet been shown to improve lifespan in humans it has been demonstrated in every animal species it’s been tried on so it’s a safe assumption that it works for people too. Overall, the books diet advice is pretty mainstream and spot on. Where it starts diverging from mainstream opinion is in it’s supplement recommendation.

Let’s get one thing straight, I take and recommend supplements. While it’s true that nutritional aids can never replace a healthy diet they can do what the name implies, i.e. supplement your diet to ensure no vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Kurzweil though is not satisfied with simply preventing deficiencies. His program calls for a massive supplement load with the goal of curing and correcting diseases and conditions in the body. Note that when I say massive, I mean massive. Kurzweil’s supplement recommendations are often 4-5 times the RDA currently prescribed and in some cases much more. Kurzweil himself takes upwards of 150 pills a day to reach the levels he prescribes. To be blunt, that’s a shit load of pills and there is a lot of disagreement over whether such aggressive supplementation is helpful, or even good. It’s a well known fact that excess levels of some vitamins, such as A, K and B12, can lead to severe side effects and most nutrition scientists seem to agree that supplements can be useful for special populations there remains a lot of debate over whether even simple multivitamins can be helpful to healthy population. To be fair Kurzweil address’ some of these points, none of his recommendations are above the UL (tolerable upper limit) and a some of his supplement recommendations are specifically for special populations. On the whole, I tend to lean more towards Kurzweil’s view of supplements than the medical establishment, but be warned that there is no consensus on there benefits.

There is a lot more information in this book that I could go into but since I doubt you want to here me talk about homocysteine levels and methylation for another three paragraphs I’ll wrap things up. Does this book offer good advice? Overall, yes it does. The dietary advice is based on sound nutritional science so you could sure do a lot worse than following the dietary regimen this book outlines. The exercise advice, which basically boils down to the standard recommendation of 30 minutes of cardio a day for 5 days per week and resistance training 2-3 days per week, is also sound. The supplement recommendations are a little more iffy, some of the claims are backed up with evidence while others are still up in the air, so think really hard before you shell out hundreds of dollars and start popping 150 pills a day.

Letter From Utopia May 20, 2009

Posted by Matt Brown in Transhumanism.
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I absolutely love this essay.  It’s by Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom, the director of the Future Humanity Institute at Oxford University and one of the most well known transhumanist thinkers in the world.  As the title implies it is a letter from utopia, the twist being that utopia in the article is one of our possible futures.  Bostrom lays out a wonderful case for striving for a utopia is desirable (an easy task) and attainable (a much harder task) and he does it with some truly beautiful prose.   If you have any interest in the future, transhumanism… you know what, scratch that.  Even if you don’t have an interest in those things you owe it to your self to read this essay.

http://www.nickbostrom.com/utopia.html

One Step Closer to Fully Functional Prosthetics May 14, 2009

Posted by Matt Brown in Bionics.
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Technology Review has a very interesting article about a new surgical technique that is giving arm amputees a chance to regain most of their lost mobility.

The technique, called targeted muscle re-innervation and developed by Todd Kuiken of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s Center for Bionic Medicine, involves transplanting surviving arm motor nerves into other parts of the body, most commonly the chest.  These nerves then function much as they would were they still in the arm, flexing the muscle they are innervating whenever the person thinks of say, performing a high five or opening a jar.  Electrodes placed on the muscle detect contractions that a motorized prosthetic arm translates into the appropriate movement.  This gives the amputee intuitive control of the arm and the ability to perform fine motor movements that have typically not been possible, such as “[slicing] hot peppers, [opening] a bag of flour, [and putting] on a belt.”

As I mentioned in my post on the Open Prosthetics Project, prosthetic devices have until recently been nowhere near as efficient as a regular biological arm.  They’ve been cumbersome and with only a few degrees of freedom have been unable to perform anywhere near the level of biological arms.  Partly this is due to the primitive technology of the arms themselves (which in many cases are no more than a claw and a hook) but it is also due to the primitive technology controlling them.  As stated in the article, “prosthetic arms have been controlled in a rudimentary way, by transforming residual shoulder movements or muscle signals in to the simplest of movement commands.”This new technique gives amputees the ability to perform activities of daily living that had previously been impossible.

What is even more incredible is the possibility that this technology can give back to amputees not only motion, but sensation.  Currently no prosthetics possess tactile abilities.  They cannot feel texture, heat, pressure and so on.  But while most research into muscle re-innervation has focused on motor nerves, “it appears that sensory nerves, which carry signals from the skin to the brain, are affected as well.  Patients, including Mitchell, have reported that when certain areas of their rewired chest muscles are touched, they feel as if their missing hand is being touched.”

If a prosthetic arm can be developed to detect the sensations we feel through our skin, it appears that the nerve wiring would already be in place to make it work.

Study Finds EPO Has Cognitive Benefits September 11, 2008

Posted by Matt Brown in Endurance, Human Enhancement.
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Josh over at Human Enhancement and Biopolitics has recently commented on a rather interesting development concerning EPO.  EPO, or erythropoietin, is a hormone in the body that regulates red blood cell production.  While naturally occuring in the body, it is also a favorite drug of endurance athletes the world over for its ability to increase the body’s production of red blood cells and thus increase submaximal endurance.  However, new studies have shown that EPO also has beneficial neurological effects.  Doctors had noticed that patients given EPO to treat kidney failure also gained an increase in cognitive abilities.  To quantify these affects researchers than conducted a study whereby rats were given injections of EPO every other day for three weeks.  At the end of the trial mice given the drug had better memory in some situations than those fed a placebo, with the cognitive benefits lasting up to four weeks after the last injection.

While all the above is interesting, the best part is why EPO triggered these effects.  When I first read this I assumed that that increases in memory could be attributed to the increased red blood cell count.  Keep in mind that more RBC’s means more oxygen making it’s way to the brain allowing the brain to produce more energy and thus do more work.  Instead, it seems that EPO is actually directly affecting the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory and learning, by increasing the plasticity of the neurons found there.  In essence, it is making the neurons more efficient at transmitting nerve impulses.

All of this has some very exciting implications.  EPO’s well documented physical effects already make it a wonder drug for athletes, these new fidings could make it popular with the population at large.  Just as steroids are popular with average people trying to mold a more physically attrative body so EPO could soon become popular with those trying to get a advantage at work or in business, and unlike steroids the dangers of EPO (too many RBC’s can be dangerous) can be rather easily kept in check with regular blood tests to ensure a healthy level of RBC’s.  It is possible that as more people accept the benefits of EPO, acceptance of other enhancement technologies will also rise, helping to bring the beneftis of these technologies to more and more people.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080908203011.htm

The Obstacles to Increasing Human Speed August 29, 2008

Posted by Matt Brown in Human Enhancement, Speed.
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I recently read an article that made the claim that with the help of technology it will be possible to make human beings faster than we ever thought possible, with 100m times under 5 seconds not out of the realm of possibility.  According to the article, ” Professor Peter Weyand, Southern Methodist University (Texas), known for his expertise in terrestrial locomotion and human and animal performance, told TOI that humans would soon have the ”ability to modify and greatly enhance muscle fibre strength.” This is crucial as it would actually reduce the difference between the muscle properties of humans and the world’s fastest animal, the cheetah, to almost zero.”

With all due respect, and I blame the article more than the Professor for leaving this out, but it’s not that simple.  Certainly increasing muscular strength is the first and arguably most important step to increasing speed but it’s not the only hurdle.  It may come as a surprise to some that our strongest and fastest athletes today don’t even use all of their potential strength when they compete.  If they could they would but their bodies won’t let them.  Due to what’s called autogenic inhibition, in most instances where we exert ourselves near our maximum, the body blocks our ability to utilize all our muscle fibers.  In other words, we are only able to use a percentage of our full strength.  The reason for this is simple.  We are not designed to withstand the forces that our bodies would produce if we could utilize our full strength.  In cases were people have been over to override autogenic inhibition, such as when a man lifts a boulder off of himself to save his own life or when a mother lifts a car off her child, people have been known to rupture muscles or even tear tendons right off the bone.  Clearly, simply increasing muscle strength is only part of the answer.

If you want to build a faster human, there are a few things you have to do.  The first is change the actual composition of the muscle.  If your going for pure speed then Type II b muscle fibers are ideal.  These produce the greatest amount of force due to, among other reasons, the fact that more fibers are connected to a single motor neuron than with Type II a or Type I fibers.  While it is possible to change a small amount (10% at most) of muscle fibers from one type to another through training, we currently have no method for changing the composition of an entire muscle.  Next comes strengthening the muscle itself, either through hypertrophy ( making the fibers bigger) or hyperplasia (making more muscle fibers.)  Both of these are possible and may only be a few years away due to treatments such as stem cells to build new muscle fibers and myostatin inhibition to increase there size.  In addition it is important to increase the strength of the tendons and bones as well, for reasons previously mentioned.  I currently know of no method for increasing the strength of tendons and bones other than the old fashion way of resistance training, which I doubt would be sufficient.  It may require increasing the density of bones or perhaps even changing their composition to stronger materials, but that is just speculation on my part.

If the challenges are overcome, all of the above will make humans faster, but if you really want to improve speed your going to have to do something drastic.  As mentioned elsewhere in the article,  ‘‘The fast four-legged runners or quadrupeds do seem to be advantaged versus bipeds in terms of the mechanics allowed by their anatomy. These mechanics help quadrupeds to get the most out of the muscles that they have in a way that bipedal runners probably cannot.” If you want to make humans the fastest animal on earth, we’re going to have to ditch the hands for another pair of feet.

http://olympics.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Diet_not_a_factor_in_sprinters_speed/articleshow/3382218.cms