As scientists continue to investigate the mechanisms behind human longevity, new and potentially groundbreaking approaches to slow or reverse biological aging have emerged. According to experts, some of these therapies may be available within the next decade.
Scientists have discovered new anti-aging approaches that may help people live longer and healthier lifespans.
Though still under investigation, these discoveries include specific supplements, prescription drugs, and techniques that reprogram cells to a younger state.
While some hold more promise than others, experts say a few may be available soon to those interested in slowing down their biological clock.
How to slow or reverse the aging process has intrigued scientists and health experts for decades. Recently, however, there's been a surge in interest, fueled by new scientific discoveries and the influx of anti-aging routines promoted by influencers like Bryan Johnson.
Biohacking trends, such as specific dietary and supplement regimens, are increasing in popularity among people interested in slowing their biological clock. Using certain off-label drugs with potential anti-aging benefits is another approach that has gained traction. However, evidence is just emerging on whether these strategies actually work.
Here's the good news — according to researchers in the anti-aging field, some of these treatments are currently in clinical trials. If proven safe and effective, they may be available to the public within the next 10 years.
A closer look at aging
Scientists don't consider aging a disease but a natural and inevitable process. Still, this process can lead to health conditions that shorten a person's life and health span.
According to a study recently published in the journal Cell, the 12 hallmarks of aging are:
- Genomic instability: The increased likelihood of gene mutations that lead to cancer development.
- Telomere shortening: Telomeres, or repetitive DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes, reduce in length as a person ages, affecting life and health span.
- Epigenetic alterations: Aging causes changes that impact gene expression, which could be influenced by environment and behaviors, such as diet and exercise.
- Loss of proteostasis: The dysfunction of protein stability, leading to the buildup of protein clumps — a hallmark of age-related diseases like Alzheimer's disease.
- Disabled macroautophagy: A dysfunction in the cellular recycling process that plays a role in a cell's survival and maintenance.
- Deregulated nutrient-sensing: A reduction in a cell's ability to recognize nutrients like glucose and respond to them.
- Mitochondrial dysfunction: As a person ages, mitochondria, or energy-producing molecules within cells, lose their efficiency, leading to age-related chronic diseases.
- Cellular senescence: Cells begin to deteriorate during the aging process, resulting in age-related health conditions.
- Stem cell exhaustion: Stem cells in tissues decline in numbers and lose their ability to renew.
- Altered intercellular communication: Changes occur in how cells communicate as the body ages, resulting in disease.
- Chronic inflammation: Long periods of inflammation can impact the body's ability to repair damage.
- Gut dysbiosis: Imbalances in 'good' and 'bad' microorganisms in the gut microbiota may increase inflammation and be a primary cause of age-related health conditions.
The aging process is driven by when these hallmarks manifest, how fast they progress, and whether someone engages in therapeutic interventions to slow, stop, or reverse them. They are also interconnected with other hallmarks of aging recently proposed by scientists, including the maintenance of physiological stability and adequate responses to stress.
Recent anti-aging discoveries
Some promising interventions have emerged that may halt aging in its tracks, many of which address the hallmarks of aging.
These include supplements such as resveratrol, nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), which is currently banned in the United States, and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). Spermidine is another promising anti-aging supplement that's piqued the interest of longevity experts.
Scientists have uncovered other potential strategies to slow the aging process. These include chemical "cocktails" that reprogram cells to a younger state, techniques to enhance telomere length, and approaches that rework the body's epigenetic clock.
In addition, University of Virginia scientists have discovered an anti-aging strategy involving detoxifying the body of glycerol and glyceraldehyde — detrimental by-products of fat that accumulate over time.
What are the most promising advances in anti-aging science?
"There's so much going on in aging science that it's hard to pick a single most promising advance," Dr. Andrew Steele, a computational biologist and author of Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old, tells Healthnews. "In the near term, if you wanted to place a bet, the first drugs that actually slow down the aging process will probably either be repurposed existing drugs, like metformin or rapamycin."
Steele says drugs already used for something else, like metformin, have a broader effect on biology that improves how humans age. Still, clinical trials are needed to determine whether they are effective for slowing aging in healthy older adults.
"Another possible contender is 'senolytic' treatments, which remove aged, 'senescent' cells from our bodies," Steele adds. "These treatments have been given to old mice and basically made them biologically younger — they lived longer in good health, were less frail, and even looked better, with less grey fur and plumper, more youthful skin, than mice not given the drugs."
However, Steele says that perhaps the most exciting development is just on the horizon. A technology called epigenetic reprogramming.
Epigenetic reprogramming can turn back the clock and essentially reverse aging in individual cells. "There are some interesting results in [mouse studies] but, unless we get very lucky with the science, we'll probably be waiting a bit longer for this treatment to be ready for human use," Steele explained.
Dr. David Clancy, a Lecturer in Biogerontology at the Department of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom, tells Healthnews that an animal study is currently underway investigating an injectable treatment that targets a growth-related hormone called IGF-1. If the trial is successful, this may allow FDA approval for human experiments.
Clancy also believes senolytics, or drugs to help remove senescent cells, such as fisetin, are interesting anti-aging developments. Supplements including nicotinamide riboside, a vitamin B precursor to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD+, and spermidine, which help aged cells restore function, are also on his list to watch.
I wish I could [say] more about drug development. Mostly, those things are closely guarded secrets. And there is still much debate about the causes and processes of human aging.Clancy
When will these anti-aging discoveries be available to consumers?
Repurposed existing drugs should be available within the next few years, explains Steele. "So, if they were shown convincingly to improve how long and how healthily people live, we could integrate them into healthcare pretty quickly."
Senolytics are already in clinical trials, Steele says, but scientists are testing them for specific diseases rather than aging.
According to Clancy, a polypill that includes four relatively inexpensive drug types — a statin, aspirin, a beta-blocker, and an angiotensin II inhibitor — which have been shown in organism models to extend lifespan, might become mainstream once the FDA approves the first drug specifically designed to target aging.
And Steele says that could likely happen within a decade.
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