Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who led the work at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, has said his research shows that aging may not have to proceed in one single direction.
“With careful modulation, aging might be reversed,” he insisted.
This discovery raises the prospect of a new approach to healthcare in which aging is treated, rather than the various diseases associated with it. Gerontologists don’t suggest that aging can be eliminated; rather, they say that in the foreseeable future, treatments will be designed to slow the aging process, thereby significantly increasing life expectancy. This column briefly explores some extreme anti-aging approaches that are taken by billionaires in their quest to increase their lifespan.
The senior population (65+) is expected to more than double from 35 million to 72 million from 2000 to 2030, according to BASF estimates. If so, seniors will represent nearly 20% of the total US population, according to BASF Manager John Gohbauer.1 According to NPD Group, anti-aging continues to be a key motivator for purchases among women skin care users from most age groups. There are products available that can help our cells trigger youthful gene expression, provide DNA protection and enhance cellular function.
Until now, aging solutions have hinged on traditional concepts such as diet, exercise and, of course, UV protection. But today’s middle-aged billionaires are anything but conventional. Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, has given almost $330 million to research about aging and age-related diseases. All that cash has yielded some interesting ideas that Ellison embraces. With the aid of a microbiologist and his personal physician, Ellison is said to pierce his leg with conducting needles and, via a burst of electricity, incorporate DNA of his own design into his tissues. The jolt reportedly encourages his organs to operate better.
Then there’s Alphabet CEO Larry Page who has launched Calico Company, which researches ways to improve human lifespan. Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal has given $7 million to the Methuselab Foundation, a non-profit, focused on life-extending therapies Thiel reportedly takes human growth hormone, follows a paleo diet, does not eat sugar and drinks red wine. It’s all part of his strategy to reach 120 years of age. Not to be outdone, Dave Asprey, CEO of Bullet-Proof Supplement Company, says that his goal is to live beyond 180 years. He spends three minutes weekly in a $50,000 tank of air chilled to minus 270°F, which he says increases the density of his mitochondria. He also does cardio with his body strapped in plastic sleeves filled with ice-water in a machine called Vaspar and breathes 100% oxygen.2 And to warm up after such an intense cool-down, he sits in an infra-red sauna and plays ping-pong against a robot.
But billionaires aren’t the only ones with far-out ideas of maintaining youth. We know that younger people have far lower levels of harmful proteins in their blood than younger people. These proteins build up with age and may cause decreased production of brain cells and inflammation. Some have suggested that transfusions of young blood into older bodies may be beneficial to longer life, but in vivo tests on lab rats have proven inconclusive. Still, San Francisco based Ambrosia Company specializes in infusing blood, specifically “young” blood into its customers.
Scientists and business people are experimenting with the idea that few supplements taken in the right dosage may be antidote to aging. Nootrobox, for example, sells supplements that promise to enhance brain function. One pill, called Rise, reportedly enhances memory and stamina. “Sprint” pills promise to provide an immediate boost to clarity and energy. Kado-3 pills provide protection to brain and body. Nootrobox’s product claims may seem a bit much, but the company has attracted private investors like former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and the Venture Capitalist Andreessen Horowitz. However, some scientists question the supplement approach altogether. Many doctors are skeptical that these supplements make a difference in health. There is probably a lot of placebo effect according to Kimberly Urban, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia who has studied the effect of Nootropics on the brain. The notion that these Nootropics make people sharper is largely unproven.
Many doctors are skeptical that these supplements make a difference in health. Instead, they credit any improvement to a placebo effect, according to Kimberly Urban, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia who has studied the effect of Nootropics on the brain.
Traditional Pharma Solutions
Within the ethical drug space, Rapamycin, an immuno-supressant, has shown incredible promise. In vivo studies found it increases the lifespan of mice by 25% and increases their “youthfulness” as well. In these studies, researchers found that older mice that received Rapamycin had the heart function of younger mice. But don’t get too excited; unfortunately, the drug had no such effects in humans.. The FDA has recently approved a gene-altering leukemia treatment, developed by the pharmaceutical giant Novartis. Dr. Nir Barzilai of Albert Einstein College of Medicine studies drugs for aging. Genetic rejuvenation is pursued by BioViva, a biotech company, that is developing targeted treatments for aging-related degeneration candidates such as Alzheimer’s Disease as well as cosmetic procedures like skin rejuvenation.
One day, we may be able to permanently delete the negative signs of aging from our DNA, say scientists. These are all huge accomplishments in terms of science, says Laura Cartensen, director of the Center of Longevity at Stanford University. For $25,000, Health Nucleus Company carries out a head-to-toe physical exam, which involves whole genome sequencing and scanning for early diagnostics. Company Founder J. Craig Venter was the first to sequence the human genome. At that price, full-body MRI and an array of blood tests are also conducted, and any health problems are flagged for further attention. The method has detected cancer, aneurysms and heart disease in asymptomatic people.
However, Eric Topol, director of Scripps Translational Science Institute and an expert in data-driven medicine, says that such examinations will only lead to more tests and procedures, which may be unnecessary. All of these tests are very expensive and it is questionable whether they will add years to one’s life.
Experts believe that exciting new innovations in longevity may one day redefine the way we age while helping us look better as we get older. Silicon Valley-types are pushing for a life that lasts at least a couple of decades longer. As for the rest of us without deep pockets? The vast majority of people want to live a good, healthy long life, free from the maladies that come with age; i.e. arthritis, heart disease, kidney failure, and loss of eyesight and hearing. To truly address the development of effective anti-aging and age-reversal treatments requires a foundation built on molecular biology and genomic science.
- Health and Amazing aging, Nutrition Industry Executive, May 2015.
- Time, March 2017.
Navin M. Geria
Chief Scientific Officer AyurDerm Technologies, LLC
Navin Geria, former Pfizer Research Fellow is a cosmetic and pharmaceutical product development chemist and the chief scientific officer of AyurDerm Technologies LLC, which provides Ayurvedic, natural and cosmeceutical custom formulation development and consulting services to the spa-wellness-dermatology industries. He has launched dozens of cosmeceutical and ayurvedic anti-aging products. Geria has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care industry and was previously with Clairol, Warner-Lambert, Schick-Energizer, Bristol-Myers and Spa Dermaceuticals. He has nearly 20 US patents and has been published extensively. Geria edited the “Handbook of Skin-Aging Theories for Cosmetic Formulation Development” focus book published in April 2016 by Harry’s Cosmeticology. He is a speaker, moderator and chairman at cosmetic industry events.