The majority of older people live out their final years with at least one or two chronic ailments, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease or stroke. The longer their body clock ticks, the more disabling conditions they face. Aging, in fact, is the biggest risk factor for human disease. Doctors traditionally are good at keeping people alive with these various pathologies of aging, but they rarely bring them back to full health.
Over the last 30 years, scientists have championed a new approach. They think it is possible to stop or even rewind the body’s internal chronometer so that all these diseases will arrive later or not at all. Studies of centenarians suggest the feat is achievable. Most of these individuals live that long because they have somehow avoided most of the diseases that burden other people in their 60s and 70s. Nor does a centenarian’s unusual longevity result in an end-of-life decline that lasts longer than anyone else’s.
In fact, research on hundreds of “super agers” suggests exactly the opposite. For them, illness typically starts later and arrives closer to the end. They live, live, live and then die one day. Researchers have already developed various techniques to increase healthy lifespan of yeast, worms, flies, rats and monkeys. Adapting these measures to humans is what is happening right now. Although it might seem like science fiction, scientists have discovered what could be the world’s first anti-aging drug! It means that by taking this pill, people in their 70s would be as biologically healthy as 50 year old ones.
This pill is called Metformin. Metformin of course is not a new drug. It is the first-line drug of choice for prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. By 1950, French scientist Jean Sterne recognized the pill’s blood sugar-lowering abilities and began administering it to patients.
It was then approved in England in 1957 and made available to type II diabetics around the world shortly thereafter. It took the FDA a staggering 37 years to approve it in the United States, since 1990s. In recent years, in addition to glucose lowering, several studies have presented evidence suggesting an important antiaging role for Metformin, such as anti-cancer effect, increasing lifespan effect, cardiovascular protective effect and neuroprotective effect.
Scientific studies have shown so far that Metformin-takers are living longer, seeing fewer cardiovascular episodes, and are less likely to suffer from cancer and dementia. Of those that do have cancer, they’re living longer with cancer than those who do not take Metformin. Currently Metformin is being used off-label to prevent age-related diseases but it could shortly be the first treatment FDA-approved to counter aging.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has given the go-ahead for a trial, called “Targeting Aging with Metformin (TAME)”, that will define if these antiaging effects can be easily replicated in all humans. The TAME study has enrolled 3,000 subjects, ages 65–79, in 14 centers across the U.S. and will last approximately 5 years. In this novel clinical trial, researchers are testing whether Metformin can delay the onset of conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, increasing healthy lifespan.
The promoter of the study, Prof. Nir Barzilai, MD, Director of the Institute for Aging Research, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, hopes to delay or prevent the onset of all age-related diseases simultaneously, rather than treat each one individually as they arise and accumulate.
If successful, TAME will mark a paradigm shift, moving from treating each medical condition to targeting aging per se. Scientists expect this to facilitate the development of even better pharmacologic approaches that will help us all live healthier, longer and, ultimately, reduce healthcare costs related to aging.
BOTTOM LINE: IS AN ANTI-AGING PILL THE KEY TO A LONGER, HEALTHIER LIFE? “TO BE CONTINUED”.
I wish you all the best,
Dr. Valeria Acampora