Scientists Continue to Work on Reversing the Aging Process

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Scientists Continue to Work on Reversing the Aging Process

Heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, blindness, stroke, dementia, and most cancers all share one common risk factor: aging. In fact, aging is the number one risk factor for these medical conditions and many others.

Therefore, while many researchers are focusing on preventing or treating each of these medical conditions individually, a small but growing group of scientists is focusing on unraveling the mystery of the aging process in order to protect people from all of these chronic diseases at once.

The significance of such a breakthrough would be profound. According to Dan Perry, president of the Alliance for Aging Research, this line of research is a “moon-shot effort to harness the underlying processes of aging as a new model for health promotion and disease prevention.”

The result is a new paradigm in medical research that focuses on finding a “cure” for aging itself, rather than attempting to treat each of the resulting diseases. But for such an approach to produce real benefits to people and to the economy, scientists must go beyond extending a person’s lifespan to increasing his or her healthy lifespan. In other words, the extra years of life that people gain must be accompanied by physical and mental health so that they can remain active and productive.

That’s why the latest research is so promising. Results from animal studies suggest that the aging process can be delayed; enabling people to gain not more years of old age, but more years of youth.

According to a recent report from scientists from the National Institute on Aging, which is one of the government’s NIH institutes, several studies have shown that life spans can be “extended significantly” by manipulating genes that are involved in a few molecular pathways that are linked to aging. Other studies suggest that drugs, such as rapamycin and sirtuin activators, that interact with these molecular pathways could be effective in lengthening healthy life spans.

We’ve discussed the potential of resveratrol, an ingredient found in red wine and grapes, in previous issues. While some research has questioned the connection between resveratrol and the longevity gene SIRT1, a new study reported in the journal Cell Metabolism provides evidence of such a link.1

David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School and his colleagues produced mice in which the SIRT1 gene can be completely turned off in adults. They’ve discovered that those SIRT1-deficient adult mice don’t enjoy the benefits of resveratrol. What this means is that anti-aging drugs currently under development that activate SIRT1 are likely to be effective...

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