New Class of Drugs Shown to Slow Aging and Age-Related Diseases
Scientists have discovered a new class of drugs that appear to slow the aging process. So far, the research has been very promising and there's a good chance many of us will be taking an anti-aging drug in the not too distant future.
Sound far-fetched? It's not.
Just last week, Financial Sense had the honor of speaking with Dr. Paul Robbins at the Scripps Research Institute, recently named as the most innovative research institute in the world by Nature Magazine. Robbins, a professor of molecular medicine and also the Director of the Institute's Center on Aging, explained the breakthroughs being made and how FDA-approved clinical trials on anti-aging medications are now in the making.
Here's what he had to say...
The Science of Aging
The process of senescence — or the deterioration that occurs with aging — has been studied for over 50 years, but only recently have researchers understood cellular senescence’s importance in driving the aging process, Robbins noted.
As cells become damaged or divide too much, they undergo this process of cellular senescence, which means they stop growing but still remain metabolically active in a person's body.
“When you’re young, these damaged cells are cleared by your immune system, but as we age and our immune system starts to fail, these cells start to accumulate, and the factors they’re sending out cause chronic inflammation,” he said.
Once discovering this connection, Robbins and other researchers began studying how to remove these cells and whether this would have a noticeable impact on the aging process.
New Class of Drugs: Senolytics
The results have been promising. Senescent cells have been implicated in a number of age-related diseases and a new class of drugs called senolytics is beginning to target these problematic cells.
One drug being studied specifically is Metformin, a compound commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes. Amazingly enough, it was observed several years ago that patients taking Metformin for this ailment were less likely to develop other diseases.
Metformin-takers tended to be healthier in all sorts of ways. They lived longer and had fewer cardiovascular events, and in at least some studies they were less likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Most surprising of all, they seemed to get cancer far less frequently—as much as 25 to 40 percent less than diabetics taking two other popular medications. When they did get cancer, they tended to outlive diabetics with cancer who were taking other medications. (Source)
Now, the FDA has given its approval to conduct clinical trials on humans to study its effectiveness.
The Race to Extend “Healthspan”
It’s important to remember the goal isn’t necessarily to extend lifespan but to improve what Robbins refers to as “healthspan,” or the amount of time that a person lives healthy during their life.
Then again, “you can imagine that if you’re healthier, you might live longer,” he said. “The key is, what we’re looking at is trying to compress this period of decline. … We don’t want to make people live longer, then have the same slow decline with all age-related diseases accumulating over a period of time.”
Because aging and age-related diseases are universal, Scripps and other research organizations around the globe are investing heavily into finding the right mix of senolytic compounds to achieve the best results.
When Will Treatments Possibly Emerge?
Though the timeline is unclear, Robbins stated, treatments that target senescent cells are showing promise.
No one compound will work on all parts of the body and we’ll probably end up with some sort of “senolytic cocktail” taken either daily or on a periodic basis to cleanse our bodies.
That said, the first such anti-aging drug may be available in as short as five years.
“The question will be, in 5 years when (the Metformin) trial is finished, if the FDA will approve Metformin as an anti-aging drug?” he asked. “There is a good chance it will be approved so that it can be given with a prescription to slow aging. … Metformin has a very good chance of being the first anti-aging drug that people would take daily.”
Listen to this interview with Dr. Paul Robbins, “Science Is Cracking the Science of Aging,” by logging in and clicking here or sign up for a FREE TRIAL to our premium FS Insider podcast by clicking here.
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