Has the First Person to Live to 150 Already Been Born?
New research focuses on altering molecules that turn DNA on and off so as to "reset" the cellular aging of the body. Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images
Longevity may be the most important trend we’ve ever experienced. It’s driven by — and in turn, it affects — everything from health to housing, money to technology, lifestyle to social policy. There’s so much to be aware of — and it’s just getting started! Now you can keep up with all the latest developments in this weekly column.
According to David Sinclair, director of the Harvard Medical School’s Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research, it’s very possible that the first person who will live to 150 has already been born.
That conclusion — and the reasons for it — is outlined in this must-read article in The Harvard Gazette. The article is an interview with Sinclair and research fellow Jae-Hyun Yang, about the successes of Harvard researchers in “turning the clock back” on laboratory mice by altering their epigenomes.
The epigenome is a “suite of molecules that turn DNA on and off in ways specific to different tissues.” Because it’s easier to alter the epigenome than the DNA itself, it’s possible that these alterations can result in what becomes, in effect, a “resetting” of that part of the body to the way it was in a younger state. “The finding raises the prospect of being able to reset the body to fight diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, whose incidences increase as we get older.”
Does it work? Sinclair: “Over the last 20 years, there have been a number of molecules that have been found to retard the aging process, at least in animals, and potentially a couple of drugs that are in humans. That made me optimistic that somebody who might make it to 150 has already been born … We’re showing it’s possible to reset the age of the body up to as much as 50 per cent. And, when you can reverse aging and not just slow it down, then all bets are off. We now know you can reset the eye multiple times and restore vision in old mice … We’re showing that we can reverse aging in other tissues as well, using the same technology. So, if you can reset the age of the body multiple times, I think it would be dangerous to set an upper limit.”
The money quote:
“We’re exploring the possibility that when we reset the age of the body, diseases like Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease go away.”
How close is this to being ready? “These technologies are developing now,” says Jae-Hyun Yang, “and the speed of development is getting faster and faster. So I don’t think it’s far away that people will live to 150.”
I urge you to read the full article, which goes into much more detail about the process and the underlying logic. The implications are obviously enormous, and you can bet we’ll be hearing a lot more going forward.
David Cravit is a Vice-President at ZoomerMedia, and Chief Membership Officer of CARP. He is also the author of two books on the “reinvention” of aging. You can check out some of his other writing here.