There is no shortage of scientists toiling away in the field of anti-aging, searching for the key mechanisms behind the process and new ways to apply the brakes.
Life extensionists have become a fervent and increasingly vocal bunch. Famously, the community includes venture capitalists and Silicon Valley billionaires, non-gerontologists all, and nearly all men, who consider death undesirable and appear to have made so much money they require infinite life in which to spend it.
But now mere mortals are joining the throng, heads filled with fantasies of forever. Humans have lusted after immortality for as long as they have been alive. So far the quest has been unsuccessful – we still die! But “paradise” is reported to be closer now than ever before.
In this article we’ll take a look into some of the latest research and developments in the field of longevity, life extension and immortality.
Your diet is important
A report in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that daily nut-eaters were less likely to die of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. Overall, the daily nut-eaters were 20% less likely to have died during the course of the study than those who avoided nuts. (Peanuts, which are actually legumes, counted as nuts in this study).
It’s not just nuts. Researchers found young fruit flies given cranberry extract lived 25 percent longer than those that weren’t. And in even better news, middle-aged and older fruit flies lived 30 percent longer!
Several other fruits seem to be very beneficial if you want to live longer. Often dubbed a “superfood” because of their high antioxidant levels, blueberries and other foods rich in polyphenols can also extend your life.
A total of five studies on blueberries were recently published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. The research looks at different possible health effects associated with eating berries, including changes in inflammation, memory, and avoiding age-related diseases as we age.
Another study found that getting plenty of polyphenols in your diet can reduce your risk of death by 30 percent.
Green Tea boasts benefits like reduced risk of cancer and heart disease and the world’s second most popular beverage has been shown to reduce risk of death by up to 26 percent for those who consumed several cups a day.
Making cells work again
Certain chemical compounds work to keep cells active and young, providing yet another target for drugs that promote longevity.
This research focuses on a kind of cell known as a senescent cell. Much aging-related research focuses on these, as they are key players in how humans grow old. Essentially, these are cells that have ceased the ability to divide and are therefore thought to be a key driver in age-related decline, along with conditions such as arthritis and heart disease.
If we understand how and why cells become senescent, then we may be able to design drugs that target those particular machinations. But equally important, identifying what makes these cells unique will make it easier to design drugs that selectively target them and not other healthy ones.
These medications are part of a class of drugs called senolytics, which focus on eliminating senescent cells for healthier aging. Last year, scientists made a breakthrough in this area, demonstrating a new type of senolytic compound that could slow down the deterioration of aging mice with just three days of treatment.
The real vampires
Drinking blood might sound like something straight out of horror stories or conspiracy theories, but it is a real thing and science is proving it.
A scientist named, Dame Linda Partridge, a geneticist at UCL, has said that research shows young blood could allow humans to live a life free of diseases such as cancer and heart disease right up until their deaths.
Professor Partridge’s analysis of data forms are part of a wave of studies and trials backed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel at a San Francisco start-up called Ambrosia.
The new “treatments” comes on the back of several studies over the last 17 years in which Stanford researchers have shown the joining of circulatory systems (known as parabiosis) between old and young mice to be effective in rejuvenating organs, muscles and stem cells. Additionally, a study last year found that the plasma of young people itself had a rejuvenating effect when injected into older mice.
Historically, it has not only been the elite that drink blood. Medieval historian Richard Sugg recently told Smithsonian Magazine that villagers would gather around the recently executed with bowls to drink their blood fresh, or congeal it into a pudding for later. “The executioner was seen as a big healer,” Sugg said.
By drinking the blood of a healthy young man, he says, you were imbibing his spirit and curing whatever afflicted your soul. These treatments supposedly fell out of favor following the Enlightenment, and the onset of a more general sense of prudery that took hold in the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Lately, big players and investors have also spotted an opportunity: Google’s parent company has invested heavily in its secretive anti-aging spinout, called Calico. A startup called Celularity last month raised $250 million to try to use postpartum placentas to delay the aging process. And a company called Elysium Health has rallied Nobel Prize winners to sell a $50-per-month supplement aimed at boosting levels of a molecule known as NAD+ that’s hypothesized to play a role in promoting longevity, though not without prompting rebuke from some prominent doctors.
Telomeres could be the ultimate solution
Telomeres are appended to the ends of all 46 chromosomes in all of our cells. Once telomeres become too short, cells can no longer multiply to replenish body tissues. The progressive shortening of this chromosome-capping, protective bit of DNA now appears to be associated with risk for certain chronic diseases. Studies even show that people with longer telomeres are more likely to live longer and, arguably even more significantly, to have more years of healthy life.
Biologists have long pondered and pursued the causes of aging. Telomere research helps advance the idea that cellular aging may play a strong role in pacing the aging of the whole organism.
“Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life,” said Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford and director of the university’s Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology. “This greatly increases the number of cells available for studies such as drug testing or disease modeling.”
These treated cells behave as if they are much younger than untreated cells, multiplying with abandon in the laboratory dish rather than stagnating or dying.
“This new approach paves the way toward preventing or treating diseases of aging,” said Blau. “There are also highly debilitating genetic diseases associated with telomere shortening that could benefit from such a potential treatment.”