In 15 years’ time, we will be able to add 30 healthy years to our lifespan
A future 60-year old?
Fresh from attending three conferences for insiders on longevity and speaking to some of the movement’s leaders, it is stunning to realize what tools we have available now and what is just around the corner.
Here is a limited selection of what is already here and what we can expect.
Starting with your face and skin.
When our body gets old, our old cells become senescent, which means that they stop dividing and start secreting substances, which pollute and damage other cells. Removing such senescent cells slows down the process of aging. A San-Francisco-based startup, OneSkin, already has in early testing program a face cream which uses senolytic therapy approach. A clinical-grade application of senolytic technologies for other parts of the body (or whole body) are worked on by many other startups and will be available in the next few years.
How about joints and bones?
Most of our parents and many of us have problems with joints at some stage. These typically result from the lack of cartilage, which is produced efficiently only until a certain age by our bodies. This drives the need for knee and hip operations, arthritic pains, and discourages vigorous exercise such as running. Well, the solution for it is already being tested by SamuMed, a privately-owned company you probably haven’t heard of, which in recent round was valued at $12bn. They use an ancient, forgotten cell signaling way (called Wnt pathways) that tells our progenitor stem cells what they should become. In this way they are able to stimulate our own body to create the cells we need at this moment (such as cartilage), as if we were young again. By the way, the same discovery had spectacularly positive results fighting human tumors injected into mice. Coming back to bones, if you ever need to replace the whole bone, that should not be a problem any longer. We will be able to grow the bone in the 3D printed scaffold in the bioreactor back from our own cells. The human trials of this solution designed by EpiBone started in May this year.
Apill for losing 10 years?
Our body has incredible regenerative powers, which we started to understand better in the last 20 years and are on the cusp of harnessing to our advantage today. Do you know that injecting young blood to an old mouse visibly rejuvenates the old mouse? The same applies to humans. Elegantly avoiding the crisis of vampire market for teenage blood, a start-up called Elevian was able to identify and isolate the molecule, which is behind this phenomenon (called GDF11) and is able to produce it without the need of having the young donors’ blood delivered to you. Application of this molecule had a very positive impact on muscle repair, improving exercise capacity, cerebral blood flow and improved metabolism. A non-invasive therapy like GDF11 could easily have an impact equivalent to shaving off 10 years of your biological age. Elevian should have it ready in the next 6–10 years.
What if I have an accident?
The powers of rejuvenating technologies we are harnessing are not limited to preventive regeneration. They can also be used with incredible results even when the damage happened, such as in the case of trauma, accidents and stroke. The team led by Ellen Heber-Katz managed to regenerate completely the mechanically inflicted holes in ears of mice or even regenerate damage to mouse’s heart with application of HIF 1 alpha. It is only a question of time, when we will see the same results in humans.
Ultimate goal: resetting the clock and reversing aging.
Salk Institute from California in 2016 proved on mice that it is possible for mammals to reprogram cells (using pluripotent stem cells) back to the embryonic state. While the reprogrammed mice lived 30% longer than control group, it is clear that such solution is still very risky to apply to human and it will take a long time before we can understand and control this process fully. However, the major breakthrough here has been done. Now we need tinkering and optimization.
Many scientists, including Aubrey de Grey from SENS, believe that within 15–20 years, we will have technology to extend our lifespans by 30 years and then within these next 30 years, we will develop further technologies to add another 20–30 and so on. Seems like amortality is almost there for some, luckier (and younger) among us.
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So, what shall we do to take advantage of it?
All longevity scientists I spoke to are consistent on a few measures — they recommend ‘all the things your mother would tell you to do’, which mostly means not smoking, doing regular checkups and screenings, having a healthy diet ,and getting a reasonable amount of exercise. Then the lists of many of them diverge and each has their own ‘hacks’ for a long, healthy life. Here are a few of the most interesting, bold and immediately applicable:
· Hot and cold showers (or using sauna) — as per 2018 NIH publication 4–7 times-a-week sauna use reduces cardiovascular disease death risk by a staggering 77%.
· Eating nuts — this seems like a great and very easy hack — as per one study nut-reach diet had all cause mortality lower by 24%!
· Intermittent fasting — become very popular among healthy Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, scientists, VC managers and biohackers, who often skip breakfasts to create 12–16h gaps in eating during the day. Mice experiments point to strong positive impact on body fat (70% reduction), better sleep, reversal of many diseases and lower cancer risk.
Our future body-management panel
The bottom line is this; our optionality and ability to have successful interventions into our health will increase dramatically in the next 15 years. Keep yourself as healthy as you can up to this point, using traditional, time-tested methods mentioned above, then you will have far more tools. It appears that we have a 50/50 shot at amortality. Some are not sure if it is good or bad. But the fact is — the greatest minds on Earth are working on this every day, and they believe we have a real shot.