Scientists have begun to identify key features or “characteristics” of the aging process. Therapies that target these characteristics have the potential to slow aging and prevent, alleviate or delay diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. As a result, the hope is not only that we will live longer, but also that we will lead healthier lives.
What happens to my body as I age?
DNA becomes unstable as mutations accumulate
Cells struggle to communicate with each other
The ends of the chromosomes, called telomeres, begin to unravel
Old, worn-out “senescent” cells build up and cause damage
Tiny cellular batteries, called mitochondria, become defective
Stem cells, which can help repair tissue, are running out
Epigenetic changes occur
These are chemical changes that do not affect the DNA sequence, but have an effect on gene activity.
Cells become less able to make and maintain key proteins
Nutrient detection becomes faulty
Are there anti-aging drugs?
Quercitin is a bitter-tasting plant flavonol found in dietary supplements, beverages, and foods. It is known as a “senolytic” because it kills senescent cells that contribute to aging.
Senolytic drugs have been shown to prolong life and prevent disease in animals. Human clinical trials are underway.
Rapamycin is an immunosuppressive drug. It targets many of the hallmarks of aging (described above), including impaired nutrient sensing, dysfunctional mitochondria, and declining stem cell function.
In a key study, three months of rapamycin treatment improved the healthy lifespan of middle-aged mice by 60%.
Metformin is used to treat type 2 diabetes. It’s a particularly exciting anti-aging drug because it targets all nine known hallmarks of aging.
A landmark clinical trial called Targeting Aging With Metformin (TAME) is currently underway in the United States and is evaluating whether the drug can slow aging and delay age-related diseases.
Learn more about aging: