For centuries, there have been myths and lore about a potential fountain of youth. Now, it seems that fiction might just become a reality. According to Nature, a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) was able to not only slow down the aging process, but reverse it. Though the findings are preliminary, scientists are hailing this as a “futuristic” bombshell with incredible potential.
The trial, led by Dr. Gregory Fahy, administered a cocktail of a growth hormone and two diabetes drugs to nine men for a year. The results were groundbreaking. At the end of 12 months, the men’s biological clock had reversed around two and a half years.
Dr. Steve Horvath, who participated in the study as an expert on epigenetic aging and markers, was astounded by the findings.
“I’d expected to see slowing down of the clock, but not a reversal,” said Dr. Horvath of the results. “That felt kind of futuristic.”
The biological, or epigenetic clock, is a marker of how much damage the body has sustained in its DNA through aging. Researchers believe that the thymus might hold the key to anti-aging because of its effect on the immune system. The thymus is responsible for turning white blood cells into t-cells, which in turn fight infections and cancer. However, the thymus gland degrades with age and begins to shrink at puberty as levels of human growth hormone fall.
The issue facing scientists was that stimulating the thymus gland often resulted in diabetes; as a result, those on the trial took two separate medications to combat this possible side effect.
Ironically, the study was not originally tasked with studying anti-aging. Instead, the focus was seeing if thymus tissue could be revived with human growth hormone to stimulate someone’s immune system. It was only after the subjects were further tested that the aging reversal was revealed.
Horvath used four different epigenetic clocks to assess each patient’s biological age and anti-aging results were found with every participant in all four tests. Moreover, when six members of the study were tested six months after the trial concluded, the anti-aging effect remained.
“This told me that the biological effect of the treatment was robust,” Horvath added. “Because we could follow the changes within each individual, and because the effect was so very strong in each of them, I am optimistic.”
However, other scientists have pointed out that the study was extremely small — nine people — and limited to white men. Moreover, there was no control group.
Nonetheless, the promising finding has excited many in the scientific field and might just herald in a new era of bio-hacking.