Unleashing the Promise of Postponed Aging

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Unleashing the Promise of Postponed Aging

In 2013, the prestigious scientific journal Cell published a paper by MIT biologist David Sinclair and several colleagues from Portugal, Australia, and the U.S. that went largely unnoticed by most mainstream media.  The paper, however, struck the biotech community with the impact of an earthquake.1

After describing a series of experiments on mice, Sinclair and his colleagues explained, “Current dogma is that aging is irreversible.  Our data show that one week of treatment with a compound that boosts NAD+ levels is sufficient to restore the mitochondrial homeostasis and key biochemical markers of muscle health in a 22-month-old mouse to levels similar to a 6-month-old mouse.” 

For humans, that would be the equivalent of giving a 60-year-old man a drug that would restore his muscle strength to that of a 20-year-old.  This treatment, the researchers concluded, could provide an effective way to prevent aging and age-related diseases in humans.

Sinclair’s findings set off a flurry of further research by other scientists, who have confirmed his conclusions and extended the benefits to encompass potential cures for cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

If Sinclair’s name sounds familiar, it may be because we’ve discussed his research on resveratrol, found in red wine and grapes, as an anti-aging compound.  Previous research had shown that life could be extended dramatically by restricting the amount of calories an organism consumes, although no one understands why. 

Sinclair, then at Harvard, published several studies ten years ago that showed that doses of the antioxidant resveratrol had the same effect as caloric restriction in extending the life spans of mice, flies, fish, and yeast.  For example, he showed that mice that were placed on a high-fat diet and given large amounts of resveratrol were just as healthy as mice that were fed a normal diet, and they lived 15 percent longer than the control group.  Sinclair theorized that resveratrol activates SIRT1, an enzyme that has been proven to extend the lifespans of many types of organisms.

However, a study reported in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in 2014 by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine professor Richard D. Semba found that the health and lifespan of people who consume a diet rich in resveratrol are no better than those of people who consume smaller amounts.  They are also equally likely to develop cardiovascular disease or cancer.2

Resveratrol never succeeded because it turned out that the molecular pathways are different in humans than they are in mice.  Fortunately, the new pathway forged by NAD+ looks more promising...

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