Humans have been grappling with the concept of ageing for thousands of years, it effects beauty in the eyes of society and more importantly to most it shortens our active lifespan. Ageing is a natural occurrence of time yet it seems to catch everyone off guard, even the first emperor of China supposedly ingested mercury pills to extend his life. Eating large quantities of heavy metal usually results in quite the opposite, yet it highlights the intense desire for humans to try and maintain their youth even at the cost of health.
Today little has changed within society, people still opt for procedures that most likely leave them in a reduced state of health for the illusion of youth and beauty. Botox is one leading examples in the pursuit of youth that impairs the body, paralysing muscles to create a mask of beauty. Modern techniques just like their predecessors are yet to address the fundamental issue surrounding senescence, which makes them somewhat redundant. Admittedly it would be pleasant for some to simply look younger for longer, although having our older generations see better health and fitness is far more preferable. Imagine a world that allowed every grandparent the energy to play with their grandchildren, this is the direction of anti-ageing that should be pursued. However, this seems like it requires a fountain of youth like solution to be achieved, leaving many to think that overcoming ageing is simply unattainable.
Ageing originates from the mitochondria, the energy producing elements of our cells, and it would seem like this process so far rules supreme. Yet a team of Australian and US scientists believe it is possible to stop ageing, presenting promising data upon the reversal of ageing.
Last year this concept saw some progress with work within stem cell technology at the McGowan institute for regenerative medicine after an experiment displayed rejuvenation of cells. Introduced stem cells released a chemical that benefited nearby tissue, showing an increased rate of cellular replication and health. Co-author, stem-cell expert and twenty year veteran of science; Professor Johnny Huard stated that he found the results unbelievable, yet contraire to his initial belief the work was sound and a positive step was made. This preliminary research provided fuel toward the concept, as it identified the existence of a fountain of youth like chemical.
In the December issue of Cell, a leading research journal in cellular science an article was published claiming to have discovered a chemical that displays all the right rejuvenative properties. Like the stem-cell research this mysterious compound originates within the body and has spectacular effects upon older cells.
The chemical in question is nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, simply referred to as NAD. Concentrations of NAD were observed to reduce with advancement of age, implying a connection between the two factors. Researcher began to introduce NAD into mice to observe its effect, hoping that NAD’s connection was directly related. The results were astonishing, displaying age reversal at rate that can only be described as rapid. One researcher at the university of New South Wales professor Dave Sinclair went on to describe the process “like a married couple: when they are young, they communicate well, but over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down” and just “like a couple, restoring communication solved the challenge.”
With the reintroduction of NAD into the system cell efficiency increased, cellular replication, protein and energy production all went up. In fact, the two year old mice used displayed and estimated age reduction of one and half years. A reduction of seventy five percent, making this a highly promising medical aid, with human application and testing to begin as early as next year.
Currently the daily cost of medicinal NAD sits at $50,000 a day, yet its discovery and research is more of a door opener than the ultimate solution. This study has unravelled ageing, from their data the ageing process can be better understood, which makes this drug and research incredibly important towards the treatment of age related illness, such as dementia. It also has the power to trigger the creation of simpler and cheaper versions of NAD like drugs as our knowledge increases.
With a drug of this variety perfected, what sort of implication will this have upon the overall populations health and the level of well being within the older generation?