The life expectancy in top performing countries has grown three months a year every year since the early 1800s. to infectious diseases and accidents. Thanks to advances in medicine, we have gradually found ways to prevent and treat these causes of death; the end result is perhaps humanity’s greatest achievement – we’ve literally doubled what it means to be human, increasing the lifespan from 40 to 80 years. On the other hand, it has allowed a scourge to impose itself above all the others to become the leading cause of death in the world: ageing.
Aging is now responsible for more than two-thirds of deaths worldwide, or more than 100,000 people every day. Indeed, as counterintuitive as it may seem, the primary risk factor for many of the modern world’s top killers is the aging process itself: cancer, heart disease, dementia, and many other health problems. health become radically more common as we age. We all know that factors such as smoking, lack of exercise and poor diet can increase the risk of chronic diseases, but these are relatively minor compared to aging. For example, having high blood pressure doubles your risk of having a heart attack; being 80 rather than 40 multiplies your risk by ten. As the world’s population ages, the scale of death and suffering caused by aging will only increase.
But that’s not my prediction – aside from being depressing, extrapolating a two-century trend for an extra year is hardly groundbreaking. What’s far more exciting is that in 2023 we may see the first drug that targets the biology of aging itself.
Scientists now have a good idea of what makes us age, biologically speaking: so-called “hallmarks” of the aging process range from damage to our DNA – the instruction manual in each of our cells – to proteins that misbehave due to alterations. to their chemical structure. Even more exciting, we now have ideas on how to deal with them.
By the end of 2023, it’s likely one of these ideas will work in humans. “Senolytics,” a class of treatments that target aged cells — which biologists call senescent cells — that accumulate in our bodies as we age, are a strong contender. These cells seem to be at the origin of the aging process, from the cause of cancers to neurodegeneration, and conversely, their elimination seems to slow it down or even reverse it.
A 2018 paper showed that in experiments in which mice were given a senolytic cocktail of dasatinib (a cancer drug) and quercetin (a molecule found in colored fruits and vegetables), they not only lived longer, but they were less at risk of disease. including cancer, were less fragile (they could run farther and faster on the tiny mouse-sized treadmills used in the experiments), and even had thicker, shinier fur than their littermates who had not received the drugs.
There are more than two dozen companies researching safe and effective ways to get rid of these senescent cells in humans. The biggest is Unity Biotechnology, founded by the Mayo Clinic scientists behind this mouse experiment and with investors like Jeff Bezos, which is testing a range of senolytic drugs for diseases like macular degeneration ( a cause of blindness) and pulmonary fibrosis. Many approaches are being explored, including small proteins that target senescent cells, vaccines to encourage the immune system to eliminate them, and even gene therapy by a company called Oisín Biotechnologies, named after an Irish mythological character. who goes to Tir na nÓg, the land of eternal youth.
Senolytics aren’t the only candidates either: other human trials currently underway include Proclara Biosciences’ GAIM protein, which eliminates sticky “amyloid” proteins, or Verve Therapeutics’ gene therapy to lower cholesterol. by modifying a gene called PCSK9. The first true anti-aging drug will most likely target a specific age-related disease driven by a particular characteristic, rather than aging in a broad sense. But the success of a drug targeting one aspect of aging in clinical trials will allow us to envision that higher goal in the not too distant future.
In 2023, the early success of these treatments could trigger the biggest revolution in medicine since the discovery of antibiotics. Rather than going to the doctor when we’re sick and tackling age-related issues like late-stage cancer and dementia when they’re very hard to solve, we’ll intervene pre-emptively to prevent people from getting sick in the first place—and, if these treadmill shredding mice are any indication, we’ll reduce frailty and other issues that don’t always elicit a medical diagnosis at the same time.
#drug #treat #aging #pipe #dream