Posted on May 01, 2019, 8 p.m.
All around the globe scientists are testing therapies aimed at the aging process and whether or not we can slow it. We’ve collected some information from the many promising areas in aging and longevity to keep an eye on.
It wasn’t that long ago the field of longevity and anti-aging was considered to be a crockpot of theories, but today this has evolved into a most serious science. Medicines aimed at treating aging and age related diseases could be in the hands of clinicians as we have seen the launch of some of the first clinical trials in humans to study these such therapies, and many more are in development stage.
With record high financing pouring into the anti-aging industry it would be safe to say that 2018 was the year the industry became un-ignorable. There has been an explosions of private sector interest, which gives reason to be optimistic as there has been great progress in strengthening molecular theories about aspects of aging such as the epigenetic clock, telomere shortening, cell biology of senescence, and mitochondria dysfunction among others.
During 2018 we learned the combination of exercise, diet, avoiding cigarettes and limited alcohol can add over a decade to lifespan. A 34 year long study published in the journal Circulation found that maintaining a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9, never smoking, a high quality diet, limited alcohol intake, and 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise could extend lifespan by 14 years for women and 12 years for men.
No longer just a fad fasting has been shown to slow aging and reduce risks for age related diseases. In 2018 timing meals to mimic fasting without reducing total caloric intake was found to have similar anti-aging effects, and to improve incidence as well as severity of age related disease including dementia, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
Mental diseases can take a toll on health, but we now know they also accelerate aging. A collaborative population based study examining brain scans of over 62,000 people between the ages of 9 months to 105 years found that schizophrenia was associated with an average of 4 years of premature aging, ADHD accelerated 1.4 years, alcohol abuse accelerated 0.6 years, bipolar disorder accelerated 1.6 years, and depression was not associated with accelerated aging.
George Church has said he wants to make it possible for humans aged 130 to have physical and mental hardware of a 22 year old; currently his startup Rejuvenate Bio is developing a gene therapy to reverse aging in dogs. The company is first attempting to stop fatal heart ailments common to Dobermans and spaniels, then will gather evidence of the same concept working in humans.
Great progress has been made in treating and preventing many age related diseases by removing senescent cells largely in animal studies, last year for the first time 2 separate groups of researchers were able use transgenes to stave off neurodegeneration. The Mayo Clinic removed senescent cells from brains of Alzheimer’s mice models, findings were published in Nature. While over at the Buck Institute transgene cells eliminated senescent cells from the brains of Parkinson’s mice models to prevent the onset of neural degeneration.
University of Virginia School of Medicine found the effects of aging could be the results of cell nuclei wrinkling that prevents DNA from functioning normally; the team modified viruses to carry and deliver lamin to the cells to smooth out the nuclear membranes.
Cell Reports published a study showing pumping the blood of young mice into older mice stimulated neuron and stem cell production in the older mice to reverse the effects of aging on their cognition. Despite the mixed results the startup Ambrosia conducted its own clinical trial in 2016 that concluded in 2018 but no results have been published.
A given set of stem cells can be manipulated to differentiate into the desired cells needed, these can be used to regenerate cells or tissues that have lost function due to aging. Among others the startup Celularity is developing stem cell therapies to treat everything ranging from diabetic peripheral neuropathy to Crohn’s disease.
There is a global shortage of organs available for lifesaving transplants, Prellis Biologics has announced it is able to print human tissue with viable capillaries, such organs could be used to replace any that may have lost function as a person aged or succumbed to age related disease.
Eliminating senescent cells with the senolytic combination of the drugs dasatinib and quercetin in naturally aged mice was found to clear the cells from tissue and extend health and lifespans in a study published in Nature Medicine. Fisetin was also found to eliminate senescent cells from aged mice to extend health and lifespan in a study published in eBioMedicine. Targeting mitochondria in blood vessels with hydrogen sulfide was found to reduced the number of senescent cells by 50%. Last year Unity Biotechnology launched the first human trials to test senolytic therapies aiming to treat moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee.
Aging Cell published a study showing metformin to extend the lifespan of human cells in vitro, and the $77 million clinical trial TAME is attempting to determine if metformin will work in people.
Rapamycin was used in a double blind randomized study of 264 volunteers aged 65+ for 6 weeks, promising results showed the infections were safely reduced around 40% by reversing the effects of aging on the immune system.
NMN is a precursor to NAD+ that boosts levels of sirtuins in cells which have been found to protect against the effects of aging, and NAD+ levels will typically drop with age.
Minocycline may prevent protein buildup characteristic of neurodegenerative disease according to research published in the journal eLife.
ANP compounds were found to slow aging in mice and may be effective against Alzheimer’s disease in humans according to Salk Institute research.
A new epigenetic biomarker of aging was developed using data from whole blood relating to age in every tissue and cell tested by Steve Horvath and associates called DNAm PhenoAge that outperforms measures in abilities to predict a variety of outcomes including all cause mortality, cancer, healthspan, Alzheimer’s disease, and physical functioning.
Nature published a study revealing that mitochondrial genes protect against dementia and other diseases of aging; in mouse models mitochondrial DNA depletion induced phenotypic changes associated with aging which was reversed by restoring mitochondrial function.
Bats live for a long time for their size, Myotis bats live the longest and they have different telomeres, telomerase, and DNA repair genes; using over 60 years of field data telomeres were shown to shorten in 2 bats species while they did not shorten in Myotis bats.
Protein misfolding is a major pathology contributing to degenerative disease, research led by Northwestern University bringing together 5 American institutions known as the Proteostasis Institute will be studying the roles protein quality plays on aging and neurodegenerative disease.
25 genetic mutations on genes involved in wound healing, blood coagulation, and cardiovascular disorders were identified using bioinformatics approaches to identify genes associated with primate species with the greatest longevity.
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