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Death Becomes Her immortality reverse ageing
Death Becomes Her (1992). Film still

Scientists may have found a way to reverse the ageing process

New research from Harvard researchers suggests we are one step closer to whole-body rejuvenation via a single pill

Are humans one step closer to immortality? Maybe. New research published by a team of scientists from Harvard Medical School suggests they have discovered a combination of drugs that can reverse the ageing process. With this treatment they believe that, in the near future, one single pill will be able to improve eyesight, treat age-related diseases, repair injuries more efficiently, rejuvenate internal organs, and reduce visible outer signs of ageing. 

“Until recently, the best we could do was slow ageing. New discoveries suggest we can now reverse it,” says genetics professor David Sinclair, who led the team and has also authored the book Lifespan.

Over the course of three years, and after extensive research on mice and monkeys, the team identified a drug combination that can reverse cellular ageing and revive cells. In the paper, they cite a chemical cocktail made up of growth hormone, Metformin, and a drug that activates the enzyme AMPK, which starts being effective “in less than a week”. When given to mice, this combination was found to rejuvenate aged muscles, liver tissue and other organs.

We identify six chemical cocktails, which, in less than a week and without compromising cellular identity, restore a youthful genome-wide transcript profile and reverse transcriptomic age. Thus, rejuvenation by age reversal can be achieved, not only by genetic, but also chemical means.

The findings have been published in the July issue of medical journal Aging and shared on Twitter by Sinclair. “We’ve previously shown age reversal is possible using gene therapy to turn on embryonic genes,” he wrote in a tweet. “Now we show it’s possible with chemical cocktails, a step towards affordable whole-body rejuvenation.”

Sinclair says the chemical cocktails identified by his team can reverse transcriptomic age in less than a week. He also shared previous gene therapy studies, done by his biotechnology company Life Biosciences, on the optic nerve, brain tissue, kidney and muscle. These showed promising results for improved vision and extended lifespan in mice, and in April, improved vision in monkeys. Preparations for human clinical trials of the age reversal gene therapy are in progress.

“This new discovery offers the potential to reverse ageing with a single pill, with applications ranging from improving eyesight to effectively treating age-related diseases,” wrote Sinclair. “We envision a future where age-related diseases can be effectively treated, injuries can be repaired more efficiently, and the dream of whole-body rejuvenation becomes a reality.”

While gene therapy is limited in its widespread use, a chemical alternative in the form of a pill will offer age reversal that is much more affordable and with shorter timelines. For anyone still unclear about what this research could mean, Sinclair broke it down for Elon Musk who asked him on Twitter what exactly the new discovery was. 

“Life is information. When corrupted, we age and die. Found a backup copy (cf Shannon). With genes and chemicals, we reboot the body. Works in monkeys to restore vision. Humans next.”

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