We can't live forever yet, but we may be getting closer to living a bit longer. Thanks to a new anti-aging drug, scientists believe they may have found a way to stop the body from falling victim to the perils of old age, including degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The hope is that the drug would not only allow people to live longer, but would also allow its users to maintain a relatively high level of health, making their extended years feel more like a gift than a burden.
With the goal of sustaining healthy human life to the age of 110 or even 120, the diabetes drug metformin has already met with success in animal trials, and now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given the green light for human trials. Ideally, it would allow for people at the age of 70 to enjoy the health of 50-year-olds, an unprecedented feat in medicine.
"If you target an aging process and you slow down aging then you slow down all the diseases and pathology of aging as well," said Professor Gordon Lithgow of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California, who serves as one of the study advisors. "That's revolutionary," he continued. "That's never happened before."
The drug, which is cheaply available for just $0.16 a day, works by boosting the number of oxygen molecules released into a cell, which in turn seems to benefit the robustness and longevity of the body's basic building blocks. The proposed test will involve around 3,000 individuals between the ages of 70 and 80 who either have or are at risk for cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Scientists hope that metformin would not only be able to stop the onset of these diseases, but also lead to sustained life.
"I have been doing research into aging for 25 years and the idea that we would be talking about a clinical trial in humans for an anti-aging drug would have been though inconceivable," Lithgow said. "But there is every reason to believe it's possible. The future is taking the biology that we've now developed and applying it to humans. Twenty years ago aging was a biological mystery. Now we are starting to understand what is going on."