The Science Behind Anti-Aging Therapies

The Science Behind Anti-Aging Therapies

The process of therapeutically engaging in an anti-aging program involves understanding the aging process and how it can be affected, discipline in adhering to a regimen of daily activities, dedication to the process which can take time, and utilizing the help from experts of various biological fields and, of course, the scientists and their specially developed active ingredient products

Life extension science, also known as anti-aging medicine, is the study of slowing down or reversing the process of aging to extend both the maximum and average lifespan. Some researchers in this area believe that future breakthroughs in tissue rejuvenation, stem cells, regenerative medicine, molecular repair, gene therapy, pharmaceuticals, and organ replacement (such as with artificial organs or xenotransplantations) will eventually enable humans to have indefinite lifespans (agerasia) through complete rejuvenation to a healthy youthful condition.

Currently, for the average person, there are a variety of anti-aging products and disciplines such as nutrition, physical fitness, skin care, hormone replacements, vitamins, dietary supplements and all natural products available which can be used to address specific age-related issues.

Current strategies and issues

Diets and supplements

Much life extension research focuses on nutrition— diets or supplements—as a means to extend lifespan. There are some dietary patterns with some support from scientific research such as caloric restriction and selective natural foods.

Preliminary studies of caloric restriction on humans using surrogate measurements have provided evidence that caloric restriction may have powerful protective effect against secondary aging in humans. Caloric restriction in humans may reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis.

A number of natural foods have been identified as being both helpful and harmful in combating the aging process. Diets using the helpful food items have proven to be effective in assisting the body in replenishing declining cells. While the avoidance of those foods that have a toxic effect upon the body’s regeneration process combine to promote youthful results.  

The free-radical theory of aging suggests that antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, Q, lipoic acid, carnosine, and N-acetylcysteine, might extend human life. Resveratrol is a sirtuin stimulant that has been shown to extend life in animal models, but the extent of the effect of resveratrol on lifespan in humans is still under clinical trial.

There are many traditional herbs used to extend the health-span, including a Chinese tea called Jiaoqulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum), dubbed "China's Immortality Herb. Ayurveda , the traditional Indian system of medicine, describes a class of longevity herbs called rarayanas, including Bacopa monnieri, Ocimum sanctum, Cuecuma longa, Centella asiatica, Phyllanthus emblica, Withania somnifera  as well as many others from Sub-Sahara Africa which many local linguistical names most of which have not been given Western scientific descriptions as of yet.

Hormone treatments

The anti-aging industry offers several hormone therapies.

Although some recent clinical studies have shown that low-dose growth hormone (GH) treatment for adults with GH deficiency changes the body composition by increasing muscle mass, decreasing fat mass, increasing bone density and muscle strength, improves cardiovascular parameters (i.e. decrease of LDL cholesterol ), and affects the quality of life without significant side effects, the evidence for use of growth hormone as an anti-aging therapy is mixed and based on animal studies. There are mixed reports that GH or IGF-1 signaling modulates the aging process in humans and about whether the direction of its effect is positive or negative.

Proposed strategies

Caloric restriction

The best-characterized anti-aging therapy was, and still is, CR. In some studies calorie restriction has been shown to extend the life of mice, yeast, and rhesus monkeys significantly. Long-term human trials of CR are now being done. It is the hope of the anti-aging researchers that resveratrol, found in grapes, or pterostilbene, a more bio-available substance, found in blueberries, as well as rapamycin, a biotic substance discovered on Easter Island, may act as CR mimetics to increase the life span of humans.

More recent work reveals that the effects long attributed to caloric restriction may be obtained by restriction of protein alone, and specifically of just the sulfur-containing amino acids cysteine and methionine. Current research is into the metabolic pathways affected by variation in availability of products of these amino acids.

Anti-aging drugs

There are a number of chemicals intended to slow the aging process currently being studied in animal models and a few human clinical trials One type of research is related to the observed effects a caloric restriction (CR) diet, which has been shown to extend lifespan in some animals Based on that research, there have been attempts to develop drugs that will have the same effect on the aging process as a caloric restriction diet, which are known as Caloric restriction mimetic drugs. Some drugs that are already approved for other uses have been studied for possible longevity effects on laboratory animals because of a possible CR-mimic effect; they include rapamycin, metformin and other geroprotectors, MitoQ, Resveratrol and pterostilbene are dietary supplements that have also been studied in this context.

Other attempts to create anti-aging drugs have taken different research paths. One notable direction of research has been research into the possibility of using the enzyme telomerase  in order to counter the process of telomere shortening  

Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS)

Another proposed life extension technology would combine existing and predicted future biochemical and genetic techniques. SENS proposes that rejuvenation may be obtained by removing aging damage via the use of stem cells and tissue engineering, telomeret-lengthening machinery, allotropic expression of mitochondril proteins, targeted ablation of cells, immunotherapeutic clearance, and novel lysosomal hydrolases.  

Many biogerontologists  find these ideas "worthy of discussion" and SENS conferences feature important research in the field.

Genetic modification

Gene therapy, in which nucleic acid polymers are delivered as a drug and are either expressed as proteins, interfere with the expression of proteins, or correct genetic mutations, has been proposed as a future strategy to prevent aging.

A large array of genetic modifications have been found to increase lifespan in model organisms such as yeast, nematode worms, fruit flies, and mice. As of 2013, the longest extension of life caused by a single gene manipulation was roughly 150% in mice and 10-fold in nematode worms.

Fooling genes

In “The Selfish Gene”, Richard Dawkins describes an approach to life-extension that involves "fooling genes" into thinking the body is young. Dawkins attributes inspiration for this idea to Peter Medawar . The basic idea is that our bodies are composed of genes that activate throughout our lifetimes, some when we are young and others when we are older. Presumably, these genes are activated by environmental factors and the changes caused by these genes activating can be lethal. It is a statistical certainty that we possess more lethal genes that activate in later life than in early life. Therefore, to extend life, we should be able to prevent these genes from switching on, and we should be able to do so by "identifying changes in the internal chemical environment of a body that take place during aging... and by simulating the superficial chemical properties of a young body".

Reversal of informational entropy

According to some lines of thinking, the aging process is routed into a basic reduction of biological complexity, and thus loss of information. In order to reverse this loss, gerontologist Marios Kyriazis suggested that it is necessary to increase the input of actionable and meaningful information both individually (into individual brains), and collectively (into societal systems). This technique enhances overall biological function through up-regulation of immune, hormonal, antioxidant and other parameters, resulting in improved age-repair mechanisms. Working in parallel with natural evolutionary mechanisms that can facilitate survival through increased fitness, Kryiazis claims that the technique may lead to a reduction of the rate of death as a function of age, i.e. indefinite lifespan.

Aging as a disease

Most mainstream medical organizations and practitioners do not consider aging to be a disease. David Sinclair says: "I don't see aging as a disease, but as a collection of quite predictable diseases caused by the deterioration of the body" The two main arguments used are that aging is both inevitable and universal while diseases are not. However, not everyone agrees. Harry R. Moody, Director of Academic Affairs for AARP, notes that what is normal and what is disease strongly depends on a historical context. David Gems, Assistant Director of the Institute of Healthy Ageing, strongly argues that aging should be viewed as a disease. Because of the universality of aging he calls it a 'special sort of disease'. Robert M. Perlman, coined the terms ‘aging syndrome’ and ‘disease complex’ in 1954 to describe aging.

The discussion whether aging should be viewed as a disease or not has important implications. It would stimulate pharmaceutical companies to develop life extension therapies and in the United States of America, it would also increase the regulation of the anti-aging market by the FDA. Anti-aging now falls under the regulations for cosmetic medicine which are less tight than those for drugs.

Scientific research

In 1991, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) was formed as a non-profit organization to create what it considered an anti-aging medical specialty distinct from geriatrics, and to hold trade shows for physicians interested in anti-aging medicine. The A4M trains doctors in anti-aging medicine and publicly promotes the field of anti-aging research. It has about 26,000 members, of whom about 97% are doctors and scientists.

In 2003, Aubrey de Grey and David Gobel formed the Methuselah Foundation, which gives financial grants to anti-aging research projects. In 2009, de Grey and several others founded the SENS Research Foundation, a California-based scientific research organization which conducts research into aging and funds other anti-aging research projects at various universities. In 2013, Google announced Calico, a new company based in San Francisco that will harness new technologies to increase scientific understanding of the biology of aging.] It is led by Arthur D. Levinson and its research team includes scientists such as Hal V. Barron, David Botstein, and Cynthia Kenyon. In 2014, biologist Craig Venter founded Human Longevity Inc., a company dedicated to scientific research to end aging through genomics and cell therapy. They received funding with the goal of compiling a comprehensive human genotype, microbiome, and phenotype database.

Aside from private initiatives, aging research is being conducted in university laboratories and includes universities such as Harvard and UCLA University researchers have made a number of breakthroughs in extending the lives of mice and insects by reversing certain aspects of aging.