Life Extension Drugs. Really?
Yes, Really; A Pill to Stop the Cellular Aging Process and Extend Life
A recent study has furthered the search for a pill that will actually stop the cellular aging process and extend life far beyond what is currently considered possible.1 There are currently a repertoire of drugs being developed that supposedly will extend human life in the future. These drugs are being categorized as “senolytics.” They’re only in animal trials at this point, but taking a pill to extend someone’s life may be more than merely an idea on the horizon, as researchers commenting on recent studies say human studies are near. Some research has supported the theory that there is an upper ceiling to human life expectancy – 115.7 for women, and 114.1 for men – but these new drugs may change this.
The natural aging process is thought to be governed, in large part, by cellular senescence. Constantly dividing cells, which allows for growth and healing to occur, begin to stop dividing, a phenomenon referred to as senescence. Senescent cells produce toxins that contribute to failing health and could underlie certain conditions such as cancer, dementia and arthritis. As we age, senescent cells accumulate. This is the mechanism of action of these senolytic drugs.
Clearing Senescent Cells, the Mechanism Behind Senolytics
According to the the recent study in Nature Medicine, the drugs are made to clear senescent cells, not exactly shut down the senescence from occurring. In removing the damaged, non-functional cells, healthy cells are left unharmed. In the current animal models the drugs have been shown to support healthy aging and prevent bone loss. The removal of senescent cells also improves cardiovascular function and lowers frailty. The lowest hanging fruit does seem to be the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
According to a specialist in aging at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, Jim Vaupel, “The evidence points towards no looming limit [in aging]. At present the balance of evidence suggests that if there is a limit it is above 120, perhaps much above – and perhaps there is not a limit at all.”
- Farr JN, Xu M, Weivoda MM, et al. Targeting cellular senescence prevents age-related bone loss in mice. Nature Medicine . 2017
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.