The Grapevine

Fountain Of Youth? Scientists Test Drugs To Slow Down Aging

Realistically, what could an anti-aging pill do for us?

Unfortunately, it is too soon to consider the possibility of living like Dorian Gray. But there is a more realistic target that researchers are hoping to achieve. In this case, the pill could extend the quality of life by reducing the impact of age-related diseases.

"The ideal would be is if people could live to be 90 or 100 and feel like they're 50 or 60," said Dr. James Kirkland, a geriatrics researcher at Mayo Clinic who heads the Kogod Center on Aging.

In simple terms, we experience aging because certain mechanisms in our body cannot function as efficiently as they used to. Senescent cells, for instance, are damaged cells that we accumulate as we get older because of our declining ability to remove them. These cells play a role in chronic conditions like heart disease, vision loss, dementia, weakening of bones, etc. They are also said to occur after radiation or chemotherapy.

To get rid of these cells, senolytic drugs were tested on mice by the Mayo Clinic team. Dr. Kirkland was among the researchers who identified this new class of drugs back in 2015. As seen in the published findings, the effect appeared to be very promising.

"We gave these drugs and we delayed onset of age-related diseases as a group, not just one disease, but all of them," he said, noting how the older mice became healthier. "We also delayed onset of frailty."

Right now, the drugs are now being tested in human clinical trials, which is a significant leap. If a similar effect is observed where senescent cells are eliminated without damaging healthy cells, the team could have a medical breakthrough on their hands. Dr. Kirkland also hoped to explore other possible avenues.

"Well, what about organ transplantation? What if you're transplanting kidneys from 70-year-olds into 20-year-olds? Should the organ be cleared of senescent cells before transplantation? So, there are all kinds of strange things or things that we hadn't thought of before that we're suddenly beginning to think of now."

While this potential fountain of youth will take a long time and further research, there are other ways one can tackle aging. Maintaining a physically active lifestyle is an important rule — and the sooner you start, the better

Social interactions, research has shown, can also help slow down aging by preventing inflammation, which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders. It could also reduce loneliness, which promotes lower stress levels equating to improved mental health. 

Unsurprisingly, the right eating habits are also necessary for healthy aging. Most experts strongly recommend the Mediterranean diet which focuses on a high intake of fruit, vegetables, fish, olive oil etc.