Did you know that the first person to live to over one thousand years old may very well be alive today? That is what many of the proponents of the science of antiaging and life extension believe. And if current research is any indication, they may not be far off.
Of course, there have been dubious assertions by products claiming to be able to make you live longer around for a very long time, but the actual scientific research into “antiaging” and “antiaging medicine” is far from snake oil. These researchers are looking into aging on a cellular level, and once they can come to truly understand the mechanism behind why cells age and die, then they can come up with interventions that can slow, stop, or even reverse the process.
One such promising area of research involves the use of “young blood” plasma. Now again, before that conjures up images of nefarious pedophiles drinking the blood of young children to maintain their youth, understand that this is a serious avenue of medical research.
A paper was just recently published by one such team of researchers that we’re able to use blood plasma to “significantly” increase the lifespan of rats.
The paper’s authors include recognized and respected academics in the field of longevity, such as UCLA’s Steve Horvath and Harold Katcher from the University of Maryland. The study involved the use of a “young blood plasma” treatment known as “Elixir.”
Katcher is a well-known and respected scientist. In fact, he led the team that discovered the breast cancer gene, brca1. He is also co-founder of Eugenics Research, an India-based start-up created to commercialize Elixir for human use.
Speaking to Longevity Today about the results of their trial Katcher said that, following treatment with Elixir, the “two-year-old rats showed the characteristics of rats half their age, by all the age-related traits we could measure (and we used more than 30 different assays), but it was Steven Horvath’s DNAm clock that was the most significant to us, as it is often considered the ‘gold standard’ of age-determination. It meant that these observed changes in apparent age reflected changes occurring deep within the organism’s cells.”
In a nutshell, Katcher and Horvath believe they have found a way to halt “epigenesis.” Epigenesis postulates that aging occurs not simply due to the breakdown of tissue that occurs over time, but that particular molecules in the blood that accumulate as we age, turn on specific genes to cause the “break down” of aging. Elixir, in effect, changes the signals by tricking the body into “thinking” it’s younger, so genes get the signal to repair and rejuvenate tissue (as they do in a young, vital, and growing child) instead of to destroy and tear them down as in an aging adult.
Although reluctant to reveal many details about Elixir at this stage because “patents hang in the balance,” Katcher said the basic idea came from a 2005 study at Stanford, which showed that factors present in young blood could rejuvenate a variety of stem and progenitor cells.
“I figured out how to gather all the factors required to rejuvenate our rats into a single product,” he says. “I gave our final product the running title of ‘elixir’ – after the ‘elixir vitae’ of the ancients. Elixir has been described as a ‘plasma fraction,’ but that would be inadequate as it is the unique product of a unique process (though its constituents are all present in young plasma). Once it is revealed, Elixir will start a tsunami of new research (including our own).”
Because of pending patents and a desire to protect what may prove to be one of the most valuable intellectual properties of the century, Katcher is keeping details about Elixir very close to the vest. They have not revealed any details of the treatment, besides the fact that it requires four intravenous doses and that it is derived from a fraction of blood plasma. Katcher thinks that the molecules involved will not be difficult to manufacture so that when a product is eventually commercialized, it will not require extraction from the blood of live subjects, rodent, or human.
So, what’s next for Eugenics and Elixir? Katcher’s co-founder Akshay Sanghavi told Longevity Today that the company is now hoping to raise up to $50 million to fund its FDA applications.
“We are in the process of setting up a lab in the Bay Area, California,” he says. “We have planned trials with dogs and possibly marmosets.“