Anti-aging is a phrase largely associated with a glut of creams, diets, and therapies touted by pop-up ads. The many spurious claims of technologies that put a stop to old age have made the process of testing out the first potentially real anti-aging drug an uphill battle. Fortunately, the push to test the diabetes drugmetformin as a cure for aging in humans has been met with success, and the FDA has approved a human trial.
According to an article by The Telegraph, metformin, though usually used to treat type 2 diabetes, has been shown to slow down the aging process and extend the lives of animals in clinical tests. Scientists expect that if the drug works as well on humans as it does on mice, than normal life expectancy for humans could rise from around 80 years to nearly 120 years.Newsmax reported on Dec. 3 that mice treated with metformin had a 40 percent longer lifespan and roundworms given the drug aged much slower.
If the drug works as expected the results could be revolutionary as medicine would no longer focus so much on treating the results of aging, like cancer, diabetes and dementia, but fighting the aging process itself. Called ‘geroscience’ this new treatment plan could render diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s a thing of the past.
“If you target an ageing process and you slow down ageing then you slow down all the diseases and pathology of ageing as well,” Gordon Lithgow, one of the study’s advisors and professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Ageing in California, told The Telegraph. “That’s revolutionary. That’s never happened before.”
For a long time, ageing has been seen as an inevitable part of life. However, since every cell contains a DNA blueprint of the body humans could potentially grow older without actually ageing at all. Most of the issues associated with old age arise from the billions of cell divisions that occur over our lifetime. With each cell division, the chances of their being a mistake grow larger. And the mistakes that do occur lead to issues where cells can no longer get rid of mutations, causing cancer, or the brain ceases to clear out plaques, leading to dementia.
Scientists believe that metformin, which increases the number of oxygen molecules released into a cell, increases the durability of cells and their longevity. The usefulness of metformin for humans is helped by the fact that it is already used to treat patients with diabetes. In fact, last year Cardiff University discovered that diabetes patients given metformin lived longer than those without diabetes, despite statistics saying they should have died eight years prior.
The upcoming clinical trial for the drug is being called TAME, Targeting Aging with Metformin, and the test will be performed on 3,000 subjects between the ages of 70 and 80 who are at risk for or already have cancer, dementia or heart disease. Scientists are hoping that the trial, which will begin in the winter of next year, will show that metformin can slow aging and stop disease.
If the results are positive that means a true anti-aging drug may not be far off. Current estimates suggest that a vaccine or pill that fights old age could increase lifespan by nearly 50 percent. According to Professor Lithgow, young people in the future may be given a treatment early on that will dramatically extend their lifespan. He suspects that expanding human health range may have a significantly greater effect on extending human life than finding a cure for cancer, dementia or any of the other diseases that occur with aging.