People today go to great lengths to look and feel younger. They’ll change their diet and exercise habits, they’ll take supplements, they’ll get Botox injections, and they’ll even have plastic surgery to improve their appearances. What if there was a simple age reversing pill you could take to not only stay young, but even reverse the signs of aging? A group of researchers has developed one, and it’s about to find out whether it will truly stop the aging process in its tracks.
Why do we Age?
Before it’s possible to truly understand how an age reversing pill can reverse the signs of aging, it’s first necessary to learn why the human body starts to age in the first place. There are several reasons for this, but many believe it comes down to DNA. Over time, our DNA simply starts to break down more quickly than our bodies can rebuild it. Without that DNA in place, our cells can’t regenerate at a rate fast enough to keep us young and healthy.
Some scientists and researchers argue that DNA is programmed to break down over time; others claim that the breakdown of DNA is a result of exposure to environmental factors. Regardless of the cause, NASA says that a simple pill may be able to reverse the effects of aging, which could help them send long-term manned missions to Mars in the future.
An Unlikely Side Effect
NASA would like to send a manned mission to Mars before 2030, giving humanity an opportunity to study the famed Red Planet up close. However, while on Mars, the astronauts would be exposed to excessive radiation since Mars’s atmosphere is very thin compared to the atmosphere here on Earth. What’s more, that exposure to radiation would cause as many as 5% of those astronauts’ cells to die and increase their odds of having cancer at some point in their lives to nearly 100%. As such, NASA researchers started looking for a way to protect these astronauts from DNA damage caused by radiation, and they found a pill that may just do the trick.
A team of researchers at the University of New South Wales developed a drug that they claimed would stop DNA damage from radiation in its tracks, and while it certainly worked in mice, it came with an amazing side effect: it also reversed DNA damage in older mice thought to be caused by the natural aging process. In fact, it worked so well in the lab that it won NASA’s iTech Competition in December 2016 out of 300 entries.
How does it Work?
The University of New South Wales team identified a very specific metabolite in the body, called NAD+, which is found in each human cell in the body, from Brain cells to skin cells. They have shown how NAD+ plays a very important role in regulating interactions between Proteins that ultimately control DNA’s ability to repair itself. Proteins are at the core of every structure in the body, including DNA.
The age reversing pill, called NMN, which is short for nicotinamide mononucleotide, is essentially an NAD+ antagonist; it’s designed to help the body manufacture more NAD+, thus improving protein interactions, allowing the body to repair its own DNA more quickly and precisely. While only lab mice have received NMN thus far, human trials are expected to begin later in 2017. This means that the drug could potentially be on the market in the next three to five years, pending approval by the FDA.
Would it Benefit more than Astronauts?
It’s been found that everyone has been exposed to radiation throughout his or her lifetime thanks to the rays of the sun, and that radiation does cause damage to the DNA over time. The higher in the atmosphere you climb, the more radiation your body absorbs. A long international flight, for example, exposes travelers to the same amount of radiation as a standard chest x-ray. While this may not seem like much radiation, it’s important to avoid any radiation where possible – hence the lead jackets worn by x-ray techs.
Radiation directly impacts your very DNA, which in turn causes cellular death. As more and more cells die without regenerating, the signs of aging become apparent. Childhood cancer survivors are also at an increased risk of early aging due to the DNA damage they experience as part of their radiation and chemotherapy treatments. It’s believed that this new age reversing pill could benefit astronauts, frequent flyers, childhood cancer survivors, and perhaps even the general population. In fact, it could treat a variety of conditions that aren’t related to aging at all – things like infertility, neurodegenerative diseases, and more.
NMN vs. Resveratrol
Chances are good that you’ve heard (or read) about resveratrol, the compound found inside red wine and other tannin-laced foods that can help slow the effects of aging. Resveratrol activates an enzyme called SIRT1, which is only one of seven enzymes, called sirtuins, which are responsible for regulating a variety of biological pathways related to the aging process. While it’s certainly a good reason to have a glass of your favorite red with dinner each day, it’s unlikely that a single glass of wine will help you maintain your youthful appearance and mental faculties any longer than normal.
While it’s true that large doses of resveratrol – much higher than those found in red wine – could potentially slow the aging process significantly, the NMN age reversing pill is much different in that it activates all the sirtuins, which include SIRT1 through SIRT7. Essentially, you can think of NMN as a very, very potent form of resveratrol that delivers exceptional results. What’s more, no obvious adverse effects were reported in the study.
Although it’ll be a few years before NMN-based drugs will find their way onto the market, and only if clinical trials are successful, there are plenty of researchers who truly believe that NMN may significantly change people’s expectations of the aging process in the very near future. Only time will tell if the age reversing pill is a true wonder of science or a work of science fiction.