Summary: a review of the discoveries in lifespan extension reported in 2017. [Author: Brady Hartman. This article first appeared on the LongevityFacts.com website. The article has been updated, and the title has been changed.]
Another year is over. Here’s a look back at the discoveries and articles covering lifespan extension science in 2017.
Videos on Lifespan Extension
The year saw the release of many videos explaining the lifespan extension field and the discoveries they have made. The animation house of Kurzsegat released a video describing how lifespan-extension researchers want to use geroscience to end aging forever.
Moreover, Kurzsegat also released an animation depicting three of the leading lifespan extension breakthrough technologies that may beat aging in our lifetimes. These three technologies in development could make a dramatic impact on our health and how we age.
Videos on the Future of Medicine
The year saw many videos depicting coming medical advances, including one video previewing potential future medical breakthroughs including weaponized killer T-cells, medical nanorobots called nanodocs, lab-grown organs, and gene editing.
Medical nanorobots, called nanodocs seem to feature prominently, and researchers showed us many ways we could ‘swallow the doctor.’ For example, one doctor plans to use bacteria-based nanorobots called bacteriobots to treat cancer. These critters are specially designed to search out and destroy tumors.
Another rising topic in aging research is the contribution of the human microbiome to health and aging. Some suggest that our microbial partners may have a significant influence on our health and aging. This colony of microbes that inhabit our bodies is so important that our friends at Kurzsegat created an animation on the power of the human microbiome. Even tech giant IBM got into the act and started a research project to study the role of the human microbiome in autoimmune disorders. Moreover, studies show that the microbiome plays a vital role in inflammaging, the low-level chronic inflammation that is characteristic of aging in older adults. Researchers even linked the human microbiome with ridiculously healthy aging in centenarians, a group of people who live past the age of 100. Moreover, one researcher was able to rejuvenate aging fish with a microbiome transplant.
This year also saw a peek inside secretive Calico Labs, Google’s foray into aging research. Geroscientists complain that Calico’s efforts are not helpful in the near term. Calico is modeling itself as the Bell Labs of aging and is focused on basic scientific research into the fundamental causes of aging. The Google startup is making a long-range bet that may not yield effective therapies shortly.
A video showed us the revolutionary plans of Aubrey de Grey’s SENS Foundation to reverse aging. As well, famous lifespan-extension researcher Dr. David Sinclair gave us an overview of the role of sirtuins in aging, showing us how these sirtuin genes rule over our aging bodies. In another video, Dr. David Sinclair told us about upcoming human trials of NAD-boosting nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN).
Cellular Senescence and Age-Reversing Senolytics
The research community has woken up on the topic of cellular senescence, and many scientists are increasingly optimistic that senolytics will treat diseases by reversing aging in multiple tissues. Research on cellular senescence continued with an increase in efforts to bring senolytic therapies to the clinic by initiating clinical trials.
In fact, a leading researcher called for more trials of senolytics, saying that the treatments will transform medicine. New research implicates cellular senescence in macular degeneration, kidney disease, osteoarthritis, cardiac hypertrophy (a form of heart disease), sarcopenia (frailty), lung diseases such as IPF, immune system aging, skin aging, and more.
Rapamycin and Metformin
Originally discovered as a bacteria in the soil of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), rapamycin is the leading lifespan-extension drug candidate. The drug produces side effects when taken daily, and reports show that intermittent rapamycin therapy shows promise in sidestepping those unwanted effects. 2017 saw a continuation of an FDA-sanctioned clinical trial of rapamycin in healthy seniors. At least one doctor is prescribing rapamycin to his patients as part of a lifespan-extension cocktail.
2017 saw delays in starting the Targeting Aging with Metformin in the Elderly (TAME) trial as trial organizer AFAR struggled to raise funds for this privately-sponsored first-of-its-kind test of an anti-aging drug.
Cryonics is the technology of the future and perhaps will always remain that way. The idea behind cryonics is to freeze a person’s body immediately after death with the hopes of rejuvenating them in the future when science has found a cure for whatever felled them. One cryopreservation company called KrioRus announced plans to cryopreserve (freeze) people before death to improve the outcome of the cryopreservation process.
While cryonics sounds like an interesting backup plan, current cryopreservation technologies are woefully inadequate, even though they have improved over the last decades. Cryonics organizations are working to strengthen cryopreservation processes to ensure the safe freezing and thawing of tissues, an outcome that they can’t currently guarantee. In fact, even state-of-the-art cryopreservation procedures produce enormous amounts of damage to cells and tissues, making future revival highly improbable, even with the most advanced future technologies. Until then, cryonics remains an unproven technology and a longshot at best.
Parabiosis (Young Blood, Old Blood)
The year saw research emerging from parabiosis studies, a bizarre experiment in which scientists link the circulatory systems of old and young individuals. Researchers continue to debate which factors are responsible for the observed effects on aging – is it the beneficial factors in young blood or harmful factors in the old blood. The weight of evidence favors “old blood is bad” (as opposed to young blood is good).
Given the thousands of factors in the blood, scientists have only managed to identify a few specific candidates with potential age-reversing powers. The field is rife with contradictions and is the research is in flux. Meanwhile, researchers continue to conduct human trials of plasma transfusion from young to old, while industry Ambrosia and Alkahest reported ambiguous clinical trial results.
Gene therapy is the practice of modifying the genetic code to prevent or treat a disease. Physicians and scientists have become increasingly interested in this novel treatment because it holds promise to address some of the most malignant and devastating diseases affecting humans.
Gene therapy has held the interest of scientists and the public alike. Many have been following the development of many of these treatments including a gene therapy for blindness.
Techniques to modify DNA in the genetic code have existed for several decades, and CRISPR brought an era of faster, cheaper, and more efficient gene editing tools. Moreover, CRISPR gave the field of gene therapy an enormous push. While the original CRISPR is a powerful gene editing tool, scientists continued to improve the technology, and a video on CRISPR 2.0 shows us that researchers have improved on the CRISPR gene editing technology.
Researchers at MIT even performed CRISPR gene editing with nanoparticles.
The year saw many successes, as the FDA approved the first ever gene therapy for an inherited disease, a rare form of childhood blindness. In another victory, a gene therapy trial showed promise in ‘curing’ hemophilia.
While the science is not ready for prime time, some impatient folks have resorted to body hacking and are performing ‘do-it-yourself’ gene therapy, a dangerous practice.
Lifespan-extension scientists, called geroscientists, are confronted with the depressing fact that most people over the age of 100 have clinical grade dementia, another name for Alzheimer’s Disease. The incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease doubles every five years after the age of 60. Therefore, before extending our lifespans, scientists must develop effective interventions to reduce or delay the incidence of dementia and slow its course. For example, delaying the onset of dementia by five years could cut its prevalence in half. Geroscientists think this is possible because calorie-restricted mice not only have increased lifespans but also enjoy a delayed the onset of the brain changes characteristic of dementia. Researchers have discovered many of the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s Disease, and are looking for ways to apply that knowledge to an effective treatment.
Scientists have come up with promising potential Alzheimer’s treatments. For example, some researchers suggest there is no single magic bullet and that precision treatments may be the best approach to Alzheimer’s Disease. And, taking the maxim that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ one researcher has shown that certain drugs delay and outright prevent Alzheimer’s Disease in mice.
Scientists delighted us at the end of the year by announcing a triple-compound treatment that reduced Alzheimer’s symptoms in mice.
Hallmarks of Aging
The hallmarks of aging is a landmark paper which identified the underlying causes of aging and spurred scientists to develop lifespan-extending drugs. A 2017 update on the hallmarks of aging provided an update on some of the significant scientific accomplishments that address these hallmarks. The report shows that researchers have made progress in understanding the underlying causes.
These nine hallmarks are cellular garbaging (loss of proteostasis), metabolic changes (deregulated nutrient-sensing), stem cell decline (stem cell exhaustion), altered intercellular communication manifested mostly in the form of chronic inflammation called inflammaging, mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular senescence, epigenetic alterations, the shortening of telomeres (telomere attrition) and DNA damage and DNA changes (genomic instability).
Many of these hallmarks are due to a build-up of macromolecular damage, mostly due to free radicals. The build-up is caused by a decline in the efficiency of the aging body’s cell stress responses. In turn, this damage leads to cell death and cellular senescence.
In fact, researchers have linked the human epigenome to aging, cancer and other diseases.
Moreover, scientists have put the hallmarks to good use in treatments, and a trial of the drug Canakinumab showed that the inflammation-lowering drug slashed the rates of heart attack and cancer in secondary prevention. Researchers say the drug prevents cancer and heart attacks by reducing chronic inflammation.
The field of stem cell science, a significant part of regenerative medicine, played an important role in 2017. Stem cell decline plays an essential role in aging. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are the key to stem cell therapy and look to be an essential tool in regenerative medicine and one way to fight the problem of stem cell decline. Biotech firms are already using stem cells to grow the ‘pancreas in a box’, a lab-grown replacement for type 1 diabetes patients that are currently being trialed.
Treatments for prediabetes and diabetes were a prominent feature during 2017. Check out this link for a brief review of the reports on prediabetes and diabetes treatments in the past year.
2017 Medical and Longevity Topics
You’ll find many reports covering medical advances and lifespan-extension research on longevityfacts.com each week. Here is a selection of topics from 2017:
- A report on what technology-loving transhumanists are up to.
- Anti-aging discovery based on resveratrol that rejuvenated old human cells.
- Scientists announce a potential treatment for pancreatic cancer called IT-139.
- Scientists have 30 anti-aging compounds in the pipeline.
- Scientists say air pollution will be the planet’s top killer by 2050.
- Researchers identify a gene called ankyrin-b that may provoke obesity.
- Researcher studies suggest there is a maximum human lifespan.
- Anti-aging sirtuin proteins could be targeted to rejuvenate our immune cells.
- Treatments for respiratory diseases and COPD are in the pipeline.
- Researchers say they can restore thymus function to improve health.
- Researchers are trying to stop mitochondria from causing cancer to grow.
- Advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) damage our bodies.
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