Summary: A new video by Kurzsegat and our friends at Lifespan.io shows several technologies in development that could dramatically slow down aging in the next few years. [This article first appeared on LongevityFacts.com. Follow us on Reddit | Google+ | Facebook. Author: Brady Hartman]
This new video from Kurzgesagt presents three technologies close to completion that could make a dramatic impact on our health and how we age.
Most people do not believe that the science of aging has made enormous progress in the last few years and human trials of anti-aging drugs have already started, with more to begin soon. Experts in the lifespan-extension field, called geroscientists are gaining the attention of mainstream medicine. They realize that we are living longer than ever before. However, we spend a significant portion of our lives sick and suffering. That is why geroscientists are shifting their focus from extending lifespans to extending healthspans, by making the latter part of our lives relatively free from chronic disease. To do this, anti-aging scientists are attacking the aging process itself, as it is the cause of almost all chronic conditions.
The Kurzsegat video provides three examples of discoveries that might benefit people who are alive today, such as senolytic drugs that remove senescent cells, NAD supplementation and stem cell therapy.
1. Senescent Cells
One way of extending lifespan is to kill off senescent cells.
As the Kurzsegat video explains, these non-functioning cells, also called zombie cells, clog up your body and disrupt normal functioning. The numbers of senescent cells in our bodies increases as we grow older, a hallmark of aging common to all of us. Senescent cells create chronic inflammation, called inflammaging that harms surrounding tissue. Scientists have implicated these zombie cells as a significant cause of the chronic diseases of old age such as kidney failure and type 2 diabetes.
Up until recently, there’s been no way to get rid of them. However, a new experiment in mice used drugs that were able to kill up a majority of senescent cells without harming healthy ones. The treated mice were more youthful, more energetic and regrew lost hair. Another study used mice genetically engineered to get rid of senescent cells. The treated mice enjoyed a 30% increase in lifespan, along with improved health and less cancer.
Why do Senescent Cells Form?
The cells in our bodies have an expiration date. Each time a cell divides, it copies its chromosomes, losing a tiny bit of DNA at the ends. This protective DNA at the end of our chromosomes are called telomeres. Looking like the plastic tips of shoelaces, telomeres protect our DNA by keeping it from fraying. Telomeres shorten with each cell division. In some cells, after 50 to 70 cell divisions, our telomeres have been reduced to the limit, and the cell turns into what is called a senescent cell. When they become damaged, most of our cells are programmed to commit a form of suicide, called cell death; however senescent cells neglect to do so. This is because senescent cells underproduce a protein that tells them when it is time to commit hari-kari.
What Are Senolytics?
Since geroscientists cannot genetically engineer all the cells in the human body, they need to find another way to clear out senescent cells. However, how do we kill them without harming healthy cells? Scientists found a solution with a group of drugs called senolytics that clear out senescent cells.
In a 2016 study, researchers gave mice an injection of senolytics. The compound worked exceptionally well, clearing 80% of the senescent cells while affecting a negligible number of healthy ones. As a result, the treated mice became healthier and even regrew lost hair.
Senolytic drugs are so promising that several biotech firms are further refining the compounds and plan to begin human trials soon.
Related Articles on Senescent Cells and Senolytics
- New Senolytics Reverse Aging by Killing Zombie Cells
- New Age-Reversing Senolytics “Can Transform Medicine” Says Leading Researcher
The video proposes that another way to combat aging is to pump our bodies full of a compound called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a naturally occurring coenzyme which helps to keep cellular functions running smoothly.
By age 50, people have about half as much NAD+ in their bodies as they did at age 20. Scientists have linked low levels of NAD+ with a slew of diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular disease. NAD+ is involved in a multitude of cellular repair processes in our bodies, they stimulate the sirtuins, and family of genes responsible for repair and also promote the repair of DNA damage. As we age, the decline in NAD+ levels causes these repair processes to become less effective. As a result, our cellular components become crumpled and bunched up, and damaged components are removed slower. Furthermore, the building blocks that restore our cells are no longer produced in the quantities we need.
However, NAD+ cannot enter cells so injecting it or taking a pill will do us no good. However, geroscientists have discovered other substances that can enter our cells, and later transform into NAD, such as the compound nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN).
In 2016, multiple trials of NMN on mice showed that the compound reanimated brain, skin, and muscle stem cells. The treated mice became rejuvenated, and with a higher ability to repair their DNA and a slightly increased lifespan, These phenomenal results got NASA interested, as the space agency is looking ways to minimize the DNA damage to astronauts. On long missions to Mars, astronauts are exposed to unhealthy levels of cosmic radiation on Mars missions. Scientists are currently conducting human trials of NMN. However, it is too soon to say if the compound will boost our healthspan or even lifespan. NAD-boosting strategies, such as NMN, are serious candidates and could become the first anti-aging pill.
3. Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is the third anti-aging technology. Stem cell decline is a hallmark of aging, and this degradation causes our bodies to break down.
As the video explains, stem cells are the repairmen of our bodies and replicate to produce fresh young cells when needed. However, the number and capabilities of our stem cells decline as we age and our bodies decline along with them. Our cells are continually subject to all kinds of damage, called macromolecular damage. Cells that become too damaged to function are programmed to self-destruct, through a form of cell death called apoptosis. Our bodies then need stem cells to replace the lost cells, and without replacements, our bodies eventually break.
Scientists have observed that when the stem cells in the brains of mice begin to disappear, the rodents start to develop diseases. To test the rejuvenating power of stem cells, scientists extracted stem cells from the brains of baby mice and injected them into the hypothalamus of the brains of middle-aged mice. The treated mice became healthier and lived 10% longer than untreated ones.
As we age, our bodies undergo metabolic changes that lead to weight gain and reduced energy. The hypothalamus is a sub-organ that regulates many metabolic and bodily functions. The researchers believe that the fresh stem cells reinvigorated the brain cells of the older mice by secreting microRNAs that regulate metabolism. After four months, the researchers observed that the brain and muscles of the mice performed better than those of untreated ones. As well the treated mice lived about ten percent longer, on average.
In another study, researchers took stem cells from mice embryos and injected them directly into the hearts of older mice. The mice treated with the youthful stem cells had improved heart function, could exercise 20% longer, and their hair regrew faster.
Related Stem Cell Articles
- Stem Cell Primer – What You Need to Know
- Can We Reverse Stem Cell Decline and Rejuvenate Our Bodies? (Part 1)
- Can We Reverse Stem Cell Decline and Rejuvenate Our Bodies? (Part 2)
- Can We Cure Diabetes With a ‘Pancreas in a Box’ Grown from Stem Cells?
The video makes several good closing points.
- There is no single magic bullet that will cure aging. Extending lifespan requires a complex array of different therapies. For example, geroscientists can kill off senescent cells, but we need fresh new stem cells to replace the lost ones. In the meantime, medications like NAD+ help correct our declining metabolism and improve our flagging DNA repair processes.
- All the studies in the video were carried out on mice. While they are proof of concepts, there is no guarantee that these anti-aging therapies will work the same way on humans. More often than not, promising compounds have shown amazing results in mice, only to be a flop in human trials, or even worse, harmful.
- To bring these compounds from the lab to the clinic, researchers need to perform human trials. The field of healthspan extension needs more funding and attention. If it gets it, all of us might enjoy growing old without pain.
Other Videos by Kurzsegat
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Cover photo: Screenshot from Kurzsegat video.
Kurzsegat. How to Cure Aging – During Your Lifetime? Web. Retrieved Nov 12, 2017. Youtube video.
Carlos López-Otín, et al. The Hallmarks of Aging. (2013) Cell, Volume 153, Issue 6, 1194 – 1217. Available Online.
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Advice: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only and is not a substitute for qualified, professional medical advice. The information and opinions provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Experimental therapies carry a much higher risk than FDA-approved ones. Consult a licensed and qualified physician for the diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911, or an equivalent emergency hotline number, for all medical emergencies. As well, consult a licensed, qualified physician before changing your diet, supplement or exercise programs. Photos, Endorsements, & External Links: This article is not intended to endorse organizations, companies, or their products. Links to external websites, mention or depiction of company names or brands, are intended for illustration only and do not constitute endorsements.