Sign me up for this. Not because I want to be Hollywood young. Well, ok, maybe a little. But I want to live long enough so I can hopefully see legitimate spaceships. No, not the ones we launch to the ISS. I’m talking full-on Star Trek / Star Wars style. I don’t care which, but I want one.
Good news on the anti-aging front. A study out in the journal Cell Reports has a team of biologists from UCLA announcing they found the gene that could be used to slow aging. Longer life and God knows how many reality shows.
The study centered around fruit flies, and researchers identified the cellular mechanism for boosting the body’s ability to flush out cellular debris. In layman terms, they found out how to take out your body’s garbage. Cellular debris is linked to most age-related diseases.
Lead author David Walker, an associate professor at UCLA talked about the study. “This research brings us closer to understanding aging at a cellular level and has implications for delaying the onset and slowing the progression of many of the major diseases of aging.”
So, how much life-extension could we expect? In the study, they activated the gene, dubbed AMPK, and increased the fruit flies’ life by almost a third. Take your 75-year-old grandparent and you are getting an additional 24 years. Even better news? The researchers were able to achieve healthier lives for the fruit flies until the end. No one wants to live forever if you are having to dial up the scooter store for replacement tires all the time.
Diseases that are age-related range from Alzheimer’s to heart disease. While developing treatments for each one is great, getting older is one of the chief risk factors. If scientists can find a treatment for the whole body to turn off aging, then targeted treatments would become even more effective.
“We tend to think about treating the diseases of aging one by one, looking for cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions,” said Walker. “But a major risk factor for all of these is simply getting older. If we could better understand and treat the underlying cellular mechanisms that affect aging, we could be very optimistic that we can delay the onset and slow the progression of these diseases.”
Before you start asking your doctor to turn on the AMPK gene, we are still in the infancy of anti-aging gene therapy. This was tried on fruit flies, so patience is definitely a virtue here. Still, the science is incredible, and hopefully it leads to serious breakthroughs.