The following is part of a 3-part blog that considers how we can live long enough to live forever. In part 1, we will discuss why we age in the first place – what happens to our bodies and what is actually causing those symptoms. Part 2 will analyze what we can take into our own hands now to prevent and even reverse those symptoms. Finally, in part 3, we’ll take a look at what scientists are actively discovering and researching that will tackle the aging process head on and prevent us from aging past a detrimental point.
A breakthrough is defined as a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development. Humans have been making breakthroughs throughout our history, however only up to the last two centuries have these breakthroughs been leading to such drastic implications and changes.
For an example, humans invented writing in about 3,000 BC then eventually created the printing press in 1,045 AD. Not much of a significant change over the course of 4,000 years. In 1903, however, the Wright brothers conquered human flight with the first airplane. A mere 66 years later, Neil Armstrong planted the first step on the moon.
Or consider Steve Jobs creating the Macintosh computer in 1984, then in 2011 IBM’s Watson defeated two previous Jeopardy! champions without being connected to the internet. Not only are breakthroughs happening at a higher rate, they are far more profound than what we could previously imagine.
There is a new breakthrough that scientists, researchers, and tech-billionaires have their sights on now: to reverse the effects of aging or even cure it all together – and many believe it is right around the corner.
In Part 1 of this series we reviewed some of the root causes for why we age in the first place. Let’s review a handful of treatments that are being studied that are leading the charge.
Current treatments and areas of research:
As a reminder, telomeres are the tips of our DNA strand that get shorter and shorter each time a cell divides. Eventually, the telomere get’s too short until, the cell can no longer divide, causing it to die – which results in age related symptoms. Encouragingly, Stanford University of Medicine has had success using a modified RNA to lengthen telomeres. A cell can normally divide about 50-70 times, however this treatment has shown to add an additional 40 divisions – nearly doubling the lifespan of the cells.
The zombie cells – or the cells that stop dividing and resist death, thus causing a host of problems for neighboring cells and tissues. Erasmus University Medical Center has recently discovered a way to get rid of those cells by injecting a protein that sends a “self-destruct” signal to the senescent cells (without harming healthy cells). They tried this on mice that were undergoing chemotherapy and the study even reversed the negative side effects of chemo, such as poor kidney function, unhealthy weight loss, liver damage, hair loss, and reduced cardiovascular endurance.
- This protein showed to kill 80% of the senescent cells in the mice which not only improved their health but also increased their life span by 30%
- Human trials are set to start soon
Our bodies are constantly creating new cells and our stem cells act as the blueprints for these new cells. Naturally, our stem cells diminish as we age, thus causing us to feel the side effects of aging because our cells are not regenerating at a normal rate. The Bank Institute for Research in Aging has shown they can reverse the process of stem cell aging in mice. Even more, they’ve found that injecting mice with younger stem cells improved health and increased their live span by 10%.
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) is a co-enzyme found in all living cells. NAD+ tells our cells how to look out for themselves, since our cells are always being cleaned up, replaced, and rebuilt. Unfortunately, we’re left with 50% of NAD+ in our cells by the time we hit 50 years of age – which is unfortunate because a lower amount of NAD+ results in a much higher risk of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Consistent with the other treatments, researchers have found NAD+ significantly increases the life span of mice after finding ways to successfully inject it into their cells.
This is of course a small list of treatments and representation of the effort going into human longevity. The thought here is that a breakthrough is on the horizon. Aging is a technical problem that has a technical solution. That solution is to prevent and slow down the damage that happen to our bodies as time goes by. Human beings are incredibly resilient at solving problems, especially when they get a hint that there is an answer.
If the first breakthrough results in an additional 20 years of life, supplemental and even more powerful improvements will follow – just as they did with the airplane, car, computer, and other technologies.
In a life that is drastically extended and ever changing, it’s imperative to begin considering what is important to us and what leads to happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment now because, in the following decades, change will come faster than we’ve ever experienced.
Liked this blog? Please give it a share and be sure to come back for more. We will continue to discuss what to consider at the intersection between living a healthy/happy life and when future trends, technology and human longevity become a reality.