Aging is not a disease (or not yet classified as such).
But, it is a risk factor in developing different medical conditions that all human beings fear.
We fear losing our memory.
We fear losing our sight.
We don’t want to lose our sense of hearing.
We want to stay connected with the world, and see how fast life is running for everyone.
Never mind technology if we cannot catch up with it, if we don’t get a chance to drive an electric vehicle or learn to use a smartphone with its latest artificial intelligence update — we just want to be able to live life at the fullest with all of our senses intact.
To continue feeling that warmth of the sun as it caresses our cheeks, to smell that delicious dinner that awaits the whole family, and to hear the laughter and chatter of our kids and loved ones.
But that’s not possible in most cases. As we grow old, we start losing our muscle mass, strength, our sight, our hearing and ability to function normally. The hardest thing though, besides frailty and the helplessness factor that comes along with it, is losing the connection with the people we love. In other words, we literally start irreversibly to fade away. To say that that’s painful, unfair and unacceptable, would be an understatement.
That’s why scientists all over the world have been searching for ways to fight age-related diseases. Diseases after all are what kill us, not age, which unfortunately for the time being is seen only as a relentless and unstoppable biological process.
The scientific world wants to find ways to extend healthspan, not only lifespan. Yes, even if we could not solve the mystery of aging yet, the goal is to extend the years that we feel robust and full of life.
But perhaps help is on the way in the form of senolytic drugs, which according to reports are being readied for human trials!
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota are recommending clinical trials for recently-identified senolytic drugs which have been proven through studies to treat age-related diseases and rejuvenate tissues.
“This is one of the most exciting fields in all of medicine or science at the moment,” said Dr. James Kirkland, director of the Kogod Center on Aging at the Mayo Clinic and lead author of study. “The same processes that cause aging seem to be the root causes of age-related diseases. Why not target the root cause of all of these things? That would have been a pipe dream until a few years back.”
Based on a CNN news report, scientists from The Scripps Research Institute and the Mayo Clinic, including Kirkland, had earlier discovered how a transgenic suicide gene could kill senescent cells. The gene activates a “suicide” protein that eliminates senescent cells in age-related condition including progeria and hypercholesterolemia (elevated blood cholesterol level).
Senescent cells are those damaged cells that accumulate in the body, refusing to divide and die off. They usually gather in big number in a single tissue, but pose a serious threat to healthy tissues due to their abnormal metabolism. This leads to cancer or other age-related diseases.
Following this 2015 discovery, Dr. Kirkland and his team conducted another study to prove the clinical potential of these senolytic drugs. Their 2017 report stated that, “In studies in animals, targeting senescent cells using genetic or pharmacological approaches delays, prevents, or alleviates multiple age-related phenotypes, chronic diseases, geriatric syndromes, and loss of physiological resilience. Among the chronic conditions successfully treated by depleting senescent cells in preclinical studies are frailty, cardiac dysfunction, vascular hyporeactivity and calcification, diabetes mellitus, liver steatosis, osteoporosis, vertebral disk degeneration, pulmonary fibrosis, and radiation-induced damage.”
This is a real breakthrough and one the world desperately needs!
Something to effectively fight different types of age-dependent medical conditions like physical weakness, heart disease, diabetes, liver and bone problems, etc.
“I think senolytic drugs have a great future. If it is proven that it can reduce senescent cells and rejuvenate tissues or organs, it may be one of our potential best treatments for age-related diseases,” remarked Dr. Kang Zhang, founding director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at the University of California.
According to Kirkland, it would take about a year and a half or two years to know the efficacy of senolytic drugs on serious age-dependent illnesses in human trials.
But, once proven, there are many companies which would be eager to develop the drugs.
One of these companies is Unity Biotechnology, whose president Nathaniel David has also remarked, “In the coming decades, I believe that health care will be transformed by this class of medicine and a whole set of diseases that your parents and grandparents have will be things you only see in movies or read in books, things like age-associated arthritis.”
This is to say the least, big news for everyone who’s long been waiting for a drug that would speed the path to market of drugs that treat multiple age related illnesses. When this happens, aging will no longer be so dreary. We can all then look forward to longer, healthier lives. And that at the end of the day is only a human right.