The Growing Interest, Investment in Anti-aging and Life Extension
The interest and investment in anti-aging therapies is growing. The goal is not just to live longer, but to be as youthful and healthy as possible for a longer frame.
Telomeres were discovered in the 1930’s. Every cell in the human body contains a nucleus, and inside the nucleus are the chromosomes that contain genes. The chromosome is made up of 2 arms, each arm contains 1 molecule DNA made up of units called bases.
A typical DNA molecule is about 100-M bases long.
It is curled up extending from one end of the chromosome to the other. At the very tip of each arm of the chromosome is the telomere.
In Y 1973, Alexey Olovnikov discovered that telomeres shorten with time because they fail to replicate completely each time the cell divides. Hence, as we get older, our telomeres get shorter.
If one were to unravel the tip of the chromosome, a telomere is about 15,000 bases long at the moment of conception in the womb. Immediately after conception our cells begin to divide, and our telomeres shorten each time the cell divides. Once our telomeres have been reduced to about 5,000 bases, we die of old age.
In Y 1984, Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered that the enzyme telomerase has the ability to lengthen the telomere by synthesizing DNA from an RNA primer.
She, along with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak, were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in Y 2009 for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.
Telomere lengthening is now thought to be a Key that explains the process of aging and holds the promise of not just slowing aging, but reversing it.
Molecular biologist Maria Blasco, PhD, director of the Spanish National Centre for Cancer Research and head of the Telomeres and Telomerase Group ascribes to the idea that aging is the foundational disease that needs to be addressed if you want to prevent degenerative and chronic diseases such as cancer.
In Y 2008, Dr. Blasco set out to determine whether lengthening telomeres will in fact slow aging.
To do this, she injected the enzyme telomerase into mice.
The Big Q: The result?
The Big A: The treated mice lived on average 40% longer than normal.
“Of course, it was an amazing feeling,” Dr. Blasco said, “because I realized that I had manipulated one of the basic mechanisms for why we age, and this could lead to important applications in the future.”
But, the therapy would almost certainly have increased the cancer rate in mice, had they not been genetically modified to be cancer resistant. And humans cannot, at present, be genetically modified.
To address this problem, Dr. Blasco and her team further refined the process, and in Y 2012 carried out a 2nd experiment.
This time, the treated mice lived about 20% longer and cancer, if it occurred, was delayed. Note: this does not mean telomerase can or will produce identical effects in humans. More research in happening.
According to scientist Joe Betts-Lacroix, the anti-aging business is “an $8-B industry of stuff that doesn’t work.”
He believes the Key to longevity is the prevention of degenerative disease, and were you to find something that actually helps prevent multiple degenerative diseases, then you could transfer billions of dollars from each of those disease fields into the anti-aging field.
As founder of Health Extension, Dr. Betts-Lacroix has raised more than $30-M from venture capitalists in search of a cure for aging.
The scientists and companies under the Health Extension umbrella have raised more than $200-M. Much of this funding is coming from the technology industry, which has become increasingly interested in biology and cracking the biological code.
Dr. Betts-Lacroix notes that in recent years, scientists have made remarkable discoveries; finding a number of ways to extend life span in mammals. Now, we are right on the verge of bringing it into the human realm, which is the most challenging venture of all.
At Unity Biotechnology, they focus on another aspect of aging: senescent cells.
Cellular senescence is when a cell ceases to divide. In a cell culture, a fibroblast cell can divide a maximum of 50X, after which it becomes senescent or non-dividing. Senescent or non-dividing cells also play a significant role in the aging process.
At Unity, researchers were able to remove senescent cells in mice, to observe what would happen. “When we did this, something astonishing happened,” cofounder Nathaniel David, PhD, said. The mice had a “profoundly extended health span,” meaning the frame of time in which the animals remain healthy and disease free.
The health and function of a number of vital organs were improved, including their hearts and bones, with less heart disease, arthritis, cataracts and other normal problems of aging. Soon, Unity will perform its 1st human trial on patients with osteoarthritis.
For sure it there is ever a pill that will ensure extended youth, lots of people will likely want it.
The Question is whether or not such a thing is even possible.
This is not a pill, but it is working model
Our lifestyle and the choices maid daily play an huge role in how we will age, and no drug will ever be devised that will allow anyone to be a junk food-eating couch potato and age in reverse.
Of Key importance is keeping our mitochondria healthy, and lifestyle strategies such as diet and exercise are Key for this.
Science shows us that a cyclical ketogenic diet high in healthy fats and low in net carbs promotes healthy mitochondrial function.
The research also shows we can slow down telomere shortening with exercise, as works to buffer the effect of chronic stress on telomere length, which helps explain some of its well-documented effects on health and longevity.
Other studies have found there’s a direct association between reduced telomere shortening in your later years and high-intensity-type exercises.
As noted in a study published in Mechanisms of Aging and Development:
“The results of the present study provide evidence that leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is related to regular vigorous aerobic exercise and maximal aerobic exercise capacity with aging in healthy humans. LTL is not influenced by aerobic exercise status among young subjects, presumably because telomere length is intact (i.e., already normal) in sedentary healthy young adults.
However, as LTL shortens with aging it appears that maintenance of aerobic fitness, produced by chronic strenuous exercise and reflected by higher VO2max, acts to preserve LTL … Our results indicate that LTL is preserved in healthy older adults who perform vigorous aerobic exercise and is positively related to maximal aerobic exercise capacity. This may represent a novel molecular mechanism underlying the “anti-aging” effects of maintaining high aerobic fitness.”
About 40 year ago I learned from 3 Top scientist that the human brain was designed to live for 600 – 900 yrs on 1 fuel, glucose, it is the ‘envelope’ around it that dies…
So, Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively