An inevitable part of life is aging and dying. It’s part of Newton’s second law of thermodynamics, which is that objects have to go from order to disorder. But there are a number of researchers who are trying to break those rules and they are trying to extend life spans for decades, centuries, or even stop aging and death altogether.
10. Elysium Health’s Basis Pill
Leonard Guarente, a leading MIT biologist, with the backing of five Nobel Laureates, launched the start-up company Elysium Health in 2015. Their first pill, Basis, works at a cellular level and it enables the body to produce a natural compound called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which is an important compound that supports a healthy metabolism. The active ingredient in the blue pill is nicotinamide riboside, which is a substance that helps make NAD in the body.
The tests have shown better health in older mice, but the problem with Basis is that there is no proof that it works in humans. Testing something like longevity in humans could take decades. So with that being said, Basis is available for sale through their website. If you take two gel caps a day, it will cost you $60 a month with a $50 membership.
Humans, like other mammals, have seven types of proteins in their bodies called sirtuins, or sir2, and they are labeled SIRT1 to SIRT7. Researchers aren’t exactly sure what they do, but there is some evidence that they may have a role in preventing chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. An example of how sirtuins works is Resveratrol, which is the nutrient that is found in grape skins and red wine, and it has been known to help with heart health. It is believed to be beneficial because it may activate the SIRT1 gene, which makes more SIRT1 protein, and that protein helps the heart.
In 2012, Scientists at Bar-Ilan University in Israel published a study about the use of SIRT6 on mice. Their study found that the males lived 16 percent longer than untreated mice. The females didn’t show the same results, and the researchers are unsure why exactly, but one possible reason that they speculated is that male mice have a higher rate of cancer, so the SIRT6 could work as a tumor suppressor, which would have a greater effect on the male population. While a lot of research still needs to be done, researchers are hopeful that SIRT6 or one of the other sirtuins may unlock the key to longevity. Until then, you may just have to drink red wine to activate SIRT1 so you can have a healthier heart.
8. Young Blood
In the 1950s, Clive McCay of Cornell University did an experiment where he stitched together the circulatory system of two mice; an old one and a young one. To his surprise, he found that the cartilage in the older mice appeared to be younger than expected. Then in 2005, a team at Stanford University found that the young blood also helped repair the mice’s livers, skeletal systems, and they could repair muscle faster. What’s interesting is that when older blood was entered into younger mice, it looked like they were aging prematurely. Then in 2012, researchers at Harvard discovered that young blood in old mice meant less of a decline in the condition of their hearts. The conclusion that eventually grew out of this is that young blood has a rejuvenating effect on older mice, and that at least some mammals have some vampiric qualities.
At first, researchers believed that young blood rejuvenated the body because of a protein in the plasma called growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11), which decreases with age. Researchers believed blood transfusions with high levels of GDF11 may help slow the aging process, and in October of 2014, that theory was put to the test on Alzheimer’s patients and the results showed that GDF11 may not be responsible. While GDF11 hasn’t been eliminated, researchers are still looking into why young blood can affect the bodies of older people.
7. Cellular Compound
Researchers have known for decades that some animals live longer and delay, or completely avoid, age related diseases like diabetes or cardiovascular disease if they eat less because of calorie and/or dietary restrictions. So you may be thinking you can just diet your way into a healthy, long life. The problem is that it has never really been proved that calorie restrictions help primates increase their life span. But researchers at the University of California believe that longevity from calorie restrictions may be a clue to slowing down the aging process. They believe that aging depends on compounds that are produced in cells by metabolic reactions known as metabolites and the molecules may be used to boost lifespan.
To test their theory the researchers used nematode, which are millimeter-long worms that are often used in longevity tests. The first molecule they tried was called alpha-ketoglutarate (alpha-KG). The molecule helps in the metabolic cycle that extracts energy from food. When they added the alpha-KG to the culture dish that housed the worms, the worms lived 70% longer than the control worms and the worms’ deterioration was postponed, just like animals with like calorie restriction.
The researchers point out that just because it worked in worms, it does not mean that it will work in humans, but the results are promising.
As we age, the cells in our bodies start to show wear and tear, which can lead to cancer. So the body essentially turns off the old cells to avoid damage. Once they are turned off, one of two things happens: they die off and leave the body through waste, or they stay in the body in a senescent state. The problem is that the senescent cells pump out an odd protein that has a weird effect on surrounding cells and researchers think it is possible that these chemicals can lead to diseases that are age-related.
What may help is gene therapy on the mechanisms that cause cells to go senescent. One of those the central mechanisms is the shortening of telomeres. Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences that are found on the ends of chromosomes and they act as protective caps. They are compared to caps at the end of shoelaces; it keeps the ends from fraying and sticking together.
When a cell divides, the chromosomes double so that the daughter cells receive equal amounts of DNA. The telomere acts like a protective cap during the replication process, but they are shortened each time the chromosome duplicates. Eventually when there is not enough telomere left, the cell dies or becomes senescent. Researchers at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre have found a way to induce cells to express more telomerase. In their tests, they found that mice that were treated at the age of one lived longer by 24 percent on average, and the mice that were treated at the age of two had their lives extended by 13 percent.
As we talked about in the last entry, one way we can combat aging is to address cellular debris, which can lead to age-related diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative disorders. One solution is simply to clear out the waste and this is exactly what researchers at UCLA are trying to accomplish. They have done tests on fruit flies where they activated a gene called AMPK.
AMPK has a role in boosting autophagy, which is a physiological process that cleans the body of waste products. This led to less disease and extended the lives of the fruit flies by 30 percent. If a 75-year-old human were to get a 30 percent extension on life, they would live until the age of 97. That is over 22 additional healthy years of living.
4. Calico LLC
In 2010, the UT Southwestern Medical Center identified the compound aminopropyl carbazole P7C3. The compound is a neuroprotective agent that improved brain functionality in rats and increased the survival of neurons in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease and ALS. Calico LLC, which was founded by Google in 2013 and is dedicated to longevity research, licensed the technology from Southwestern.
They are developing a drug that is a Nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT) enhancer. NAMPT plays a major role in metabolism, mitochondrial integrity and cell survival. If they are successful, their drug could help people not only live longer, but live healthier lives as well.
3. Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence Research Foundation
The Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) Research Foundation’s goal is that they want to rid the world of age-related disease. The Foundation, which is led by biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, is trying to develop a series of techniques that would not only stop the aging process, but it would also rejuvenate bodies as well. De Grey has identified seven types of molecular and cellular damage caused by essential metabolic processes that happen in the body. His techniques involve a panel of treatments and a lot of them are actually technologies we have talked about in prior entries. The therapies treat many different areas associated with aging and they will also repair any damage that has been done. The seven steps are:
- RepleniSENS: Replacing lost cells
- OncoSENS: Making cancerous mutations harmless
- MitoSENS: Preventing damage from mitochondrial mutations
- ApoptoSENS: Removing dysfunctional cells
- GlycoSENS: Breaking extracellular crosslinks
- AmyloSENS: Removing junk from between cells
- LysoSENS: Clearing waste accumulations out of cells
Obviously, this process is complicated and there is still a lot of work to be done, but De Grey believes that the first person who will reach the age of 1,000 is already alive today.
One of the faultiest parts of the human body is our organs. If one of them dies, or something goes wrong, it can kill the whole body. A solution to this problem is bioprinting, which is a technology that uses 3D printers to print new organs, tissue, and bones. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University developed a bioprinting process called Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH) that will hopefully make this sci-fi technology a reality. Through their process, they are able to print soft material inside a bath of supportive fluid that contains regular everyday gelatin powder. Then layer by layer, they print one gel inside another and these models would be used as “scaffolding” that will allow real tissue and organs to grow between the scaffolding.
Eventually, once we can print organs, tissue, and bone, it would just be a matter of upgrading our bodies on a part by part basis or transferring our consciousness to a better, faster, stronger, and younger body.
1. The 2045 Initiative
Famed futurist Ray Kurzweil believes that by the year 2045, humans and computers will reach singularity, meaning that computers will become more advanced than humankind and we will be able to upload our mind to a computer. It is believed that once we can upload our minds, then we will become immortal. Someone who has taken this idea and wants to bring it to fruition is Russian billionaire media mogul Dmitry Itskov. The main goal of his 2045 Initiative is to build advanced non-biological carriers (androids) that we will be able upload our consciousness to, similar to the movie Avatar. While this sounds like complete science-fiction, Itskov actually has a number of experts on board and even has the blessing of the Dalai Lama.
There are four major milestones that the project is trying to hit. By 2020, they want to have the avatar technology available and in mainstream use. By 2025, they hope to be able to implant a human brain into the avatar. By 2035, they hope to be able to upload a brain into a robot, and Itskov believes that by 2045 we will be a new species because our bodies will be holograms.
Before you get too excited about living forever as an avatar, we should point out that they do not have a working prototype for the avatar that is supposed to become mainstream by 2020, so it may be a while before we evolve to our next life form.