J. Robinson Group Blog
January 9, 2018

Aging Part II: The Opportunities and Challenges of an Extended Life

Mary MahoneyBY Mary Mahoney

J. Robinson Group Blog
gene mutation

Thanks to the medical advances of the last 100 years, we live longer. But what if we could reverse aging and regain the vitality of our youth?

Science has proved it can happen. A March 2017 article in Chemical and Engineering News, reported the discovery that simple mutations in single genes could double, triple, and even more radically increase the life span of worms.

When it comes to humans, it’s not so easy.

But there’s progress. Scientists have noticed that the diabetes drug metformin may offset metabolic and cellular processes associated with age-related conditions. The drug currently is going through clinical trials sponsored by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The antiaging effects of Rapamycin, a drug used to suppress rejection of organ transplants and suppress tumors, has been studied in laboratory mice. Those mice demonstrated more fitness, improved cognition and cardiovascular health, less cancer and a longer life.

But before you get too excited, it is worth noting that aging is incredibly complex. Tweaking the effects of aging may unbalance other functions of the body.

Yet antiaging research is on a roll. The February 2017 issue of Cell published the results of an artificially engineered peptide − a sort of protein − given to mice. The peptide reverses aging at a cellular level to combat senescent, or dying, cells. Cells that are senescent impair tissue function. The peptide was found to “restore fitness, fur density and renal function” in all the rodents.

The most exciting possibility may be just around the corner: NAD+ boosters. The latest research by antiaging scientist Dr. David Sinclair of the Harvard Medical School, published in Science on March 24, 2017, reported that as mice age and NAD+ concentrations decline, DNA damage accumulates, a process rapidly reversed by restoring the abundance of NAD+, “which may protect against cancer, radiation, and aging.”

So how do you tweak your NAD+? One way may be taking supplements with nicotinamide riboside, or NR, a form of vitamin B3. As early as 2012, scientists noticed that NR protected against obesity in mice. Another study on mice showed NR alleviated pain from chemotherapy.

Sinclair’s recent research focuses on NMN − nicotinamide mononucleotide − a form of NR. As Science Daily reported, “The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice, after just one week of treatment.”

NAD+ boosters also may affect age-related conditions, including female infertility. This would give hope to childhood cancer survivors, 96 percent of whom suffer a chronic illness by age 45, including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other cancers.

“All of this adds up to the fact they have accelerated ageing, which is devastating,” Sinclair said. “It would be great to do something about that, and we believe we can with this molecule.”

NMN could also be critical to reversing radiation damage. NASA may be able to use it on a trip to Mars, where “five percent of the astronauts’ cells would die and their chances of cancer would approach 100 percent” due to radiation exposure en route.

Closer to earth, frequent flyers who absorb unhealthy amounts of radiation during long flights, also might benefit from NMN.

And more discoveries just keep coming:  The Salk Institute recently published a study in which tweaking genes turned adult human cells into embryonic-like ones. Scientists there also extended the life of a mouse.

Although a few small human trials are ongoing, there are still no large, long-term studies on people. But if, as Salk scientist Juan Carlos Belmonte says, “aging is something plastic that we can manipulate,” it is impossible not to daydream about the possibilities.

December 31, 2017

Aging Part I: The Opportunities and Challenges of an Extended Life

Mary MahoneyBY Mary Mahoney

J. Robinson Group Blog
aging woman

Human longevity has spurred a new wave of interest in the medical community, thanks to some recent discoveries that may make it possible for us to 120 or older. But living longer could bring new challenges.

What would our quality of life be like if we survive to 100 or even 120? Would it be possible to have not just a good life, but a great life after 80? Could we slow down or even reverse the aging process and regain the vitality we enjoyed in our 20s?

Are these fantasies or facts? Scientists say they all will fall into the realm of possibilities in the not-too-distant future.

It’s hard to believe that life expectancy in the U.S. was only 47 in 1900.  By 2013, life expectancy almost doubled, to 78.8 years. The 20th century has seen the single greatest leap in human longevity ever recorded, thanks to major medical and technological advances.

The U.S. Census Bureau predicts the elderly population will explode during the next few decades, with those over 65 representing almost a quarter of the U.S. population by 2050. There also will be a “boomlet” of seniors aged 80 and older.

So, if we’re getting older anyway, why the interest in longevity? The answer is, quality of life: No one wants to spend their last 20 years disabled and in pain. If we must get old, we want to be healthy. And we want to stay and feel younger longer.

Yet Americans are not at the front of the “older but younger” trend. Average life expectancy in the U.S. is low compared with other developed countries. In fact, lifespans in the U.S. have stagnated, and we’re projected to be on par with Mexico by 2030, according to CNBC.

So why are we living longer, but not as long as the populations of other developing countries?  Science Daily reported on a study released this summer that people who avoid “risky health behaviors” not only live longer but enjoy good health in their golden years.

The study of 14,000 people, showed that men and women who are not overweight, never smoked and drank moderately live an average of 11 and 12 years longer than the rest of the us.

Healthy senior citizens benefit everyone, noted the study: “In an aging society, the health of the elderly determines the amount of money spent on the health system. In addition, healthy elderly people are better able to participate in the labor market and to perform social roles, such as caring for grandchildren.”

Beside avoiding risky behaviors, what else can we do? Severely diminishing your food intake has been shown to extend lifespans significantly. Research is focusing both on calorie restriction, which activates autophagy, or cell regeneration.

A study just released shows autophagy can affect certain illnesses and the aging process. “We can actually see the autophagy process activated through caloric restriction,” said one of the researchers, adding that increased autophagy moderates the impact of disease.

Over a decade ago, researchers found that resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, could extend the lifespans of yeast, worms, flies and fish, but not people. An article in March 2017 in Chemical and Engeneering News notes renewed interest in studying resveratrol:

“A new batch of research is now exploring resveratrol’s effects on major age-related diseases in humans, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Results from some early Phase II studies suggest resveratrol influences certain molecules in the body that are indicators, or biomarkers, of disease.”

Pterostilbene, a natural compound found in blueberries, may steal the show.  A National Institutes of Health reports says pterostilbene may offer preventive and therapeutic properties in treating neurological, cardiovascular, metabolic and hematologic disorders. It also was found to “modulate cellular stress,” i.e. aging.

Next we’ll look at the prospect of reversing aging and what it means, not just for wrinkles but also for killer diseases.

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