Is the anti-aging drug metformin the fountain of youth?
Scientists are convinced that the best candidate for anti-aging medicine is metformin. This is an inexpensive and commonly used pharmaceutical for the treatment of diabetes. It works by increasing the amount of oxygen molecules released into the cell, and thus appears to increase longevity in animals. According to a report from the International Business Times, the medicine could allow people to live to between 110 and 120 years without the ailments that accompany those difficult years.
“This would be the most important medical intervention in the modern era, an ability to slow aging,” said Dr. Jay Olshansky, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In mice, metformin managed to extend their life by 40 percent, and their bones were stronger with signs that they stayed more youthful for longer too. Last year, Cardiff University reported that in patients taking metformin, they noticed that they live longer than other patients.
“Patients treated with a drug widely prescribed for type 2 diabetes can live longer than people without the condition, a large-scale University-led study involving over 180,000 people has shown,” the report reads.
Clinical trials of metformin will start in the U.S. next year. Various institutions are currently recruiting 3,000 volunteers between the ages of 70 and 80, who suffer from cancer, heart disease, or dementia, to take part in the trial. Scientists hope that the trials will prove that metformin can slow the aging process in humans and alleviate or even cure their disease.
“If we can slow ageing in humans, even by just a little bit it would be monumental. People could be older, and feel young. Enough advancements in ageing science have been made to lead us to believe it’s plausible, it’s possible, it’s been done for other species and there is every reason to believe it could be done in us,” Olshansky said.
Regarding the findings, co-leader of the study Nir Barzilai, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, gave the following statement.
“People on metformin get 30 percent less cancers, almost every cancer except maybe prostate cancer. There are fewer studies, but there is a signal that metformin prevents cognitive decline. Additionally, there is a study that suggests that people on metformin who, when they start taking metformin, are more obese and sicker than people without diabetes, they outlive people without diabetes.”
If the same results can be achieved in humans, life expectancy could be increased by up to half. This could give humans extra years that could provide medicines for cancer and lead to possible cures for other deadly and difficult-to-treat diseases.
Aging does not have to be an inevitable process because all cells contain the DNA scheme, which may enable the continuous proper functioning of the body. Every cell in the body carries DNA, so theoretically, the body cannot function properly forever. However, some marine animals do not age. For example, lobsters don’t actually get older, and some scientists believe that if left undisturbed, they can’t die. And some turtles have even been known to live for more than 200 years.
The average life expectancy of humans in most developed countries is around 80 years. If the upcoming metformin trials are successful, it will mean that a person in their 70s would be as biologically healthy as a 50-year-old. As the Telegraph writes, it could usher in a new era of “geroscience,” where doctors would no longer fight individual conditions like cancer, diabetes, and dementia, but instead treat the underlying mechanism – aging.
[Image via Scott Barbour/Getty Images News]