We live in a world obsessed with staying young. Anti-aging beauty products are everywhere, marketing to women as young as their twenties to prevent fine lines, minimize pores and other various signs of aging. Cosmetic procedures to appear younger are all the rage and many women (and even men) are willing to go under the knife in order to appear younger.
The desire to remain young in appearance is not the only thing pushing forward the search for a solution to aging. People die of old age and old age related diseases every day. Remaining healthier for longer, and maintaining a high quality of life often trump the mere appearance of youthfulness.
It seems the quest of Ponce De Leon for the fountain of youth will never die. The desire to prevent or, at the least, slow down aging forges forward faster than ever in the modern world. It seems, however, that the quest has been taken up not by explorers or adventurers, but by scientists.
The ability to significantly slow down aging is still a long way off. Animal trials have to prove progress before human trials can begin, and the human trials would take decades to complete in order to measure properly the effectiveness of the treatment. Despite those obstacles, there are two drugs in development that have begun to show some promise.
Rapamycin is a drug that is an mTOR inhibitor. The mTOR genetic pathway is beneficial when an animal is young, ensuring healthy growth. However, when an animal ages, this pathway seems to negatively affect mammals as they grow older.
These mTOR inhibitors have been shown in studies to slow down or delay aging effects in mice and other animals. Rapamycin’s current use is to suppress the immune system in a person receiving an organ transplant, so their body doesn’t reject the transplant.
Testing on mice showed a 14% increase in lifespan. Unfortunately, Rapamycin is a very long way away from being usable as an anti-aging drug, due to negative side effects on humans. Rapamycin can raise the risk of diabetes in humans, as well as fatigue and even mouth ulcers.
Another drug that shows potential anti-aging effects is Metformin. Metformin is currently used as a type 2 diabetes medicine. Metformin is a biguanide. It reduces the amount of glucose absorbed from food and the amount of glucose produced by the liver, as well as increasing the amount of insulin created by the body.
Some animal studies have shown an increase in the lifespan of small animals by 5%. Metformin works on a cellular level, sending out a small amount of oxygen molecules. These oxygen molecules can be dangerous in high amounts, but in a small, steady amount it was shown to greatly increase the lifespan and quality of life in roundworms.
Though the desire for a longer, healthier life has been around for thousands of years, it seems that within mere decades significant life extension could be within the common public’s grasp.