The fountain of youth might soon become a reality as scientists prepare the first human trial for an anti-aging pill. Passing the 120-candle milestone in excellent health may have once been exclusive to biblical characters or descendants of Beren, but researchers think that everyone could live to that age thanks to a cheap drug, called metformin, which is already commercially available and currently used for the treatment of diabetes.
The clinical trial is called Targeting Ageing with Metformin (TAME) and it will investigate if the drug is capable of slowing and/or stopping degenerative diseases and heart conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed for trials to take place in winter of 2016, and scientists are planning to recruit 3,000 people in their 70s and 80s who either have or are at risk of having major diseases. The trial will likely take five to seven years.
Last year, a study of more than 180,000 people showed that diabetes patients being treated with metformin not only lived longer than other diabetic patients, but also lived longer than the healthy control sample. Tests on animals have also pointed out that the drug extends their lifespan and keeps the whole body healthier.
"If the effects are the same in humans as they have been in animal studies, it may be possible for people to live healthily into their 120s," said Diabetes.co.uk, a figure that appears to be based on worms living 40 percent longer than their life expectancy when given the drug.
One of the effects of the drug is making our cells better oxygenated, which can improve our health. The mechanism behind the increased oxygenation is not exactly clear, but scientists are not surprised that the extra oxygen has a positive effect on our body.
If the ability of the drug to slow down degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is confirmed, it could completely change the way we fight these diseases. People on metformin could have a biological age decades younger than their actual age.
"If you target an aging process and you slow down aging then you slow down all the diseases and pathology of aging as well. That’s revolutionary. That’s never happened before," study adviser Professor Gordon Lithgow from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California said to the media.
"I have been doing research into aging for 25 years and the idea that we would be talking about clinical trial in humans for an anti-aging drug would have been thought inconceivable, but there is every reason to believe it’s possible.”