Researchers from Harvard and MIT have identified at least six chemical compounds that can alter key signs of aging in cells, according to a peer-reviewed study published in the journal. aging. The findings could lead to breakthroughs in the billionaire-backed field of longevity technology, which aims to extend human lifespans.
The “chemical cocktails” were found to restore youthful properties to cells after just four days of treatment. “Until recently, the best we could do was slow aging,” said lead author Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School said in a press release, “New findings suggest we can now reverse it.”
At least in theory, the methods will not only slow down aging, but make you look younger. Sinclair noted that preparations are already underway for human clinical trials of “age-reversal gene therapy.”
Preparations for human clinical trials of our first age-altering gene therapy are ongoing @lifebiosciences 17/9
— David Sinclair (@davidasinclair) July 12, 2023
To identify the chemicals, the Harvard team examined molecules with known effects on cells, testing their effects on biomarkers of aging. They eventually identified six compounds, used in combination, that returned cell samples to a more youthful state within days.
Unlike dangerous gene therapies, these chemicals work through epigenetics—controlling gene expression without changing DNA sequences. The cocktails reprogram the cells into immature stem cells capable of transforming into any tissue.
While the study was limited to cell cultures, tests in mice and monkeys have also shown encouraging results so far.
This is just one of the latest developments in an area that has received increasing interest from tech billionaires. Sam Altman, CEO of AI firm OpenAI, recently invested $180 million in the secretive startup Retro Biosciences. The company wants to add a decade to human life expectancy by 2030.
Others diving into the space include Altos Labs, launched in 2021 with a reported $3 billion in backing, and NewLimit, funded with $250 million by Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong.
Some wealthy entrepreneurs like Bryan Johnson are already experimenting with themselves. The tech millionaire follows an intense open-source anti-aging regimen, including briefly injecting his son’s blood to take over 100 pills a day. Johnson claims to have slowed his biological aging by over 30 years.
Sinclair notes that preparing treatments suitable for human testing will still take time. However, he expressed confidence in the approach. “The reversal of aging can be achieved, not only by genetic means, but also by chemical means,” concluded Sinclair.
The potential to significantly extend lifespan may be met with resistance. But if treatments can delay age-related diseases and improve health in old age, they can also reduce often crippling medical costs. These visionary scientists see a future where 100 can become 60 young people.