Anti-Aging Pill To Go Into Clinical Trials In 2022 — But What Exactly Is It?

Artist's illustration of an anti-aging pill.
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Health

The U.S. military is gearing up to test a pill that can delay aging next year, Esquire reported earlier this summer.

The product -- a nutraceutical developed by U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in collaboration with privately-owned clinical-stage pharmaceutical company Metro International Biotech -- is destined for both civilians and military personnel and will go into clinical trials "in [the] fiscal year 2022,” Navy Commander Tim Hawkins, a SOCOM spokesperson, told Breaking Defense.

According to Hawkins, the anti-aging pill has been in development since 2018, with SOCOM already having "completed pre-clinical safety and dosing studies in anticipation of follow-on performance testing." Details below.

What Is SOCOM's Anti-Aging Pill

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The new anti-aging pill is intended to work on a molecular level and inhibit or reduce some of the degenerative effects of aging and injury.

In the three years elapsed since its development, SOCOM has already invested $2.8 million in the pill, which “has the potential, if it is successful, to truly delay aging, truly prevent [the] onset of injury — which is just amazingly game-changing,” Lisa Sanders, director of science and technology for Special Operations Forces, acquisition, technology & logistics, said in a statement.

“Essentially, we are working with leading industry partners and clinical research institutions to develop a nutraceutical, in the form of a pill that is suitable for a variety of uses by both civilians and military members, whose resulting benefits may include improved human performance – like increased endurance and faster recovery from injury,” explained Hawkins.

“These efforts are not about creating physical traits that don’t already exist naturally. This is about enhancing the mission readiness of our forces by improving performance characteristics that typically decline with age.”

How Does It Work?

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As ScienceDirect explains, a nutraceutical is any substance that is a food or part of a food and provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.

"In this case, a nutraceutical usually refers to a 'dietary supplement' like a vitamin pill or an enriched protein powder," Esquire pointed out.

Hawkins further elaborated that SOCOM's nutraceutical is based on a “human performance small molecule” -- an organic compound with a low molecular weight that presents certain advantages in terms of delivery and distribution into the body.

Such compounds have been used in the pharmaceutical industry for nearly a century and often form the basis for drugs.

The Science Behind It

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The small molecule used in the creation of SOCOM's anti-aging pill is nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a coenzyme involved in the production of energy within our cells in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This chemical is produced at a cellular level by mitochondria -- organelles (or cell parts) that are often called the "powerhouse of the cell."

As Metro International Biotech explains on its website, NAD+ "is critically important to the function of all living cells," since it's "required for the enzymatic processes that generate energy within the cell through the ATP cycle."

More About NAD+

Scientist examines petri dish sample under microscope.
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The coenzyme is found in all living cells and plays a critical role in hundreds of metabolic processes, per Elysium. However, despite its vital importance, NAD+ is not found in endless supplies in the body; in fact, it actually declines with age.

According to Metro International Biotech's website, “reduced levels of NAD+ are linked to aging and numerous diseases, including mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation and a variety of associated diseases."

"These levels decline as humans age and remain depleted during disease states."

This is where the anti-aging pill comes in. The strategy is to boost NAD+ via the nutraceutical currently being developed.

"Preclinical evidence suggests disease- and age-related functional decline can be mitigated by boosting NAD+, which supports the Metro International Biotech hypothesis that maintaining optimal NAD+ levels may allow humans to lead longer and healthier lives,” shows the company's website.