weekly blog--one for the ages
The first hint that hacking the biology of aging might be possible came from a series of laboratory experiments on a species of roundworm. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, studies of identical twins had already shown that about 30 percent of longevity in humans could be attributed to genetics. However, most scientists believed the process of aging was far too complex a phenomenon to modulate simply by tweaking a couple genes or taking a pill.
Not so anymore. There are now a growing number geroscience health startups signaling a change in thinking about some of the most intractable diseases facing humankind. Rather than focusing solely on the etiology of individual diseases like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and arthritis, geroscientists are trying to understand how these diseases relate to the single largest risk factor of all: human aging. Their goal is to hack the process of aging itself and, in the process, delay or stave off the onset of many of the diseases most associated with growing old.
In the months before the pandemic, billions of dollars poured into biotechs aimed at commercializing the new science. Some biotech firms are developing drugs and infusions designed to clean up zombie-like cells and metabolic junk that accumulate with age. Others hope to infuse new vigor into flagging cellular components, such as stem cells, or spur the body into beneficial actions by adding obscure hormones or proteins, that decrease as we get older.
Currently there is no FDA-approved indication for drugs that target the process of aging itself. To win approval, drugs must target a specific disease. It's no coincidence that some gerontologists have chosen the popular diabetes drug metformin to serve as the "template" for a new class of FDA-approved anti-aging drugs. It works by influencing the body's sensitivity to insulin and can have an effect on the pace of metabolism and energy expenditure.
Most geroscientists advise against self-treatments. It would be unwise, they say, to start popping rapamycin, metformin and other largely unproven supplements on the market that promise big effects. For now, the only proven anti-aging cures remain what they have always been: regular exercise, a good night's sleep, and a healthy diet.
Can Blood from Young People Slow Aging? Silicon Valley Has Bet Billions It Will (newsweek.com)