When you hear of new drugs for anti-aging your mind tends to go in the direction of modalities to reverse the signs of aging, like anti-wrinkle creams, hair loss reversal, age spot elimination, and the like. In actuality though, aging is a lot more significant than just this. Aging is a major risk factor for nearly all diseases, especially those which are the leading cause of disease-related deaths including cardiovascular disease and cancer. It is not necessarily the cause of disease, but without a doubt it is a contributing factor. Breakthroughs in the field of anti-aging research have resulted in effective therapeutic interventions and increased life expectancy over the past few decades.
There are the obvious health ailments associated with aging such as frailty, falls and breaks related to falls, incontinency, immobility, and the like; and then there are age-associated disease such as cardiovascular disease and cancer which I mentioned above, as well as diabetes, neurological disorders, arthritis, and degenerative diseases. While we have not discovered a ‘fountain of youth’ to completely stop or reverse aging, we have come a long way in our ability to modulate it through identifying what underlies aging from a molecular perspective. Genomic instability due to acquired alterations throughout ones lifespan, epigenetic switching, shortening of telomeres, reduced ability to maintain proper protein folding, altered ability to regulate nutrients and hormones, and exhaustion of ones stem cell compartment all represent areas that have been identified as mechanisms underlying aging which we can target to improve the aging process if you will, or at least address its limitations and slow it down.
How have we been able to intervene or target these processes? A recent review by Komal Saraswat and Syed Ibrahim Rizvi out of India was recently published in the journal Expert Opinion on Drug Discovery in 2017, which summarized just this. They highlighted dietary caloric restriction as being the most promising anti-aging intervention. This method reduces the caloric intake by 20-60% without introducing nutrient deficiency, and has been shown multiple times to improve various health maladies and age-related disease. The article notes that this is something extremely hard to accomplish in humans, so caloric-restriction mimetics are also being investigated as an anti-aging therapies. Some believe that the mechanism underlying why this strategy might work is the limited intake of certain amino acids in protein as well as chemicals or food types that might elicit negative responses in the body. Others have theorized that such restriction retards growth or results in the body conserving its resources due to being limited, which then allows it to last longer. Specific mechanisms and cell-signaling pathways involved in the mechanism of action have been identified, although complete mechanism remains to be fully understood. In a similar vein, inhibition of glucose processing and absorption has been studied for anti-aging and inhibition of glycolysis, AMPK, Sirtuins, growth hormones, and other metabolic-mediators has proven highly effective and extending life span.
Additionally, researchers have studied telomeres for aging benefits. Typically, each time a cell divides telomeres will shorten so that at the end of a cells lifespan, as it approaches senescence the telomeres will have reached their replicative capacity and DNA can no longer be replicated for cell division. Therefore, if you can active telomerase, and enzyme which can replicate telomeres, you can circumvent this leading to prolonged cell survival. Similarly, as you age the ability of an individual’s stem cell compartment to continue to give rise to new cells or regenerate is markedly diminished, so this has been a hot area of research with promising results.
Overall, we have made significant advances over the past decades toward effective anti-aging strategies using a variety of approaches. While we likely will never completely abrogate aging as a whole, strides towards prolonging or reducing it will make significant impact on human health and quality of life longevity. Looking toward the future, it should be exciting to see what this field has in store for the next few decades.
Sources: Expert Opinion on Drug Discovery, Wikipedia, Pixabay, Youtube, Isagenix
For more on telomeres in aging, see video below.