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On the Verge of Discovery: The Fountain of Youth in Pill Form

Fountain of Youth

If you could take a pill and prevent further aging, would you take it? Besides extending the length of your life, what if the pill could protect you from cancer, Alzheimer's disease and type 2 diabetes? You might even find your skin looking younger.

Do these claims sound like science fiction? Not at all, according to David Sinclair, a geneticist who heads the Lowy Cancer Research Centre's Laboratory for Ageing Research at the University of New South Wales. Dr. Sinclair, who is currently based at Harvard University, anticipates that antiaging drugs will be available by 2018.

Through his research, Dr. Sinclair has found that a single enzyme, SIRT1, "is switched on naturally by calorie restriction and exercise, but it can also be enhanced through activators."

Resveratrol, found in red wine, contains a naturally occurring activator. So to keep the doctor away, in addition to eating an apple a day, we should drink a glass of red wine with dinner.

To jump-start the antiaging nature of this enzyme, Dr. Sinclair and his associates have developed synthetic drugs that are 100 times more potent than the amount of resveratrol found in a glass of wine. Through their efforts, 4,000 synthetic activators have been identified, and the three most promising drugs are currently being tested on humans.

In animal testing, overweight mice that were given potent synthetic resveratrol "were able to run twice as far as slim mice and they lived 15 per cent longer."

The superior athletic performance of these mice raises profound questions about how humans would perform given the same synthetic activator. (For openers, we might need to raise the bar for awarding Olympic medals.)

Once the antiaging drug becomes available, the potential applications are mind boggling. Initially, the drug might be used to target type 2 diabetes, but the applications don't stop there. Dr. Sinclair believes positive implications exist for a variety of diseases associated with aging, from cancer to cardiovascular disease, from Alzheimer's to cataracts and from Parkinson's diseases to osteoporosis. Research has led Dr. Sinclair to conclude that "ageing isn't the irreversible affliction that we thought it was."

Welcome to the brave new world!

Photo:  exosomatics on Flickr

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