STOP THE CLOCK
THEY SAY IT’S NO FUN GETTING OLD ... BUT WHAT IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO?
If you’re a Baby Boomer or younger, this may be the best news you read today: in the not too distant future, scientists may be able to halt ageing, or at least delay it.
Right now, in laboratories across the world, researchers are working to discover the magic treatments or drugs that will make us forever younger.
Even Google is getting in on the market, with its very own anti-ageing company Calico, and a team of scientists from medicine, drug development, molecular biology and genetics tackling “one of life’s greatest mysteries”.
Their mission: to understand the biology that controls lifespan and use that knowledge to help people live longer and healthier lives.
It goes without saying that any company that does discover the secret of youth is looking at multi-billion dollar profits.
No surprise then that there’s so many big players, many in the United States, racing towards the finish line.
One area of study includes “senescent cells” – dysfunctional cells that build up as we age and can cause tissue damage. Eliminating these cells may help reverse or prevent a wide range of diseases, including osteoarthritis, atherosclerosis, eye diseases and kidney diseases, researchers say.
Stem cell brain implants could also slow ageing and extend life, say scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
They have been able to slow ageing in older mice, keeping them more physically and mentally fit and extending their lives by 10–15 per cent.
Naturally pharmaceuticals are also a key hope for eternal youth.
Human trials are planned of the diabetes drug metformin to see whether it can moderate age-related conditions such as inflammation and oxidative damage. The
trials will be led by the American Federation of Ageing Research.
Another promising discovery being worked on are sirtuins, proteins that control functions such as the repair of DNA, cell cycle, or inflammatory response, according to Professor Brian Kennedy, director of the Centre for Healthy Ageing at the National University of Singapore.
Scientists at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital have also started human trials of a related biological substance, NAD+, that could help keep our body’s DNA repair mechanism in peak condition.
While you’re waiting for the answer to a long, long life, there are plenty of things you can do to extend your lifespan.
No, we’re not talking Botox, fillers, or any of the cosmetic procedures designed to “turn back the clock”.
The most comprehensive studies of centenarians in the world, the New England Centenarian Study and the Long Life Family Study, have found exceptional longevity runs strongly in families. So, choosing your parents wisely is better than any facelift.
Centenarians are also notable for their conscientiousness and optimism, says Professor Perminder Sachdev, co-director of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing at UNSW in Sydney.
What better reason do you need to finish tasks and work on a positive attitude?
Other international studies suggest a healthy extended old age is related to a strong social network, regular exercise, a Mediterranean or vegetarian diet and low stress.
Finally, living longer may be a case of keeping yourself in the best condition possible until scientists really do discover the magic therapy or pill.
Helen Hawkes is a wellness editor and coach with a special interest in anti-ageing health. www.helenhawkes.org