Top 4 Exciting Breakthroughs in Longevity Science

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    Telomeres, stem cells, and 3D printing - oh my!

    A slower metabolism is normal after the age of 30. You’ll be lucky if you don’t get a gray hair by age 45. Everyone is ready to retire in their mid-60s. Are all of these “truths” set in stone, or are they – as longevity expert Dr. Aubrey de Grey puts it – part of a “pro-aging trance” culture? The inevitability of aging hasn’t stopped some bold scientists and entrepreneurs from looking for ways to stave it off. And they’ve made some very exciting discoveries recently!

    Telomeres

    You know those little plastic tips on the ends of your shoelaces? They’re not just there for looks – they’re there to keep your shoelaces from fraying and becoming useless. It turns out that the idea for that technology literally came from our genes. Telomeres are the biological equivalent of those plastic shoelace tips for our DNA. The longer and more intact they are, the younger you are, biologically speaking.

    What do we mean by “biologically speaking”? Well, as it turns out, the cells in your body have no idea how old you are chronologically (i.e., the number of birthdays you’ve had). They only know the amount of times they’ve had to replicate themselves. The more damage you do to your body – in the form of unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, and bad habits like smoking and/or excessive drinking – the more frequently your cells will have to replicate to keep you alive. And the more frequently they replicate, the shorter your telomeres get.

    So far, telomeres are most useful as a marker of biological aging. But future applications for this technology – especially in the realm of diagnosing disease and coming up with effective treatment methods based on biological age rather than chronological age – can have some really exciting prospects for the future of medicine.

    3D Tissue Printing

    Statistically speaking, more than 20 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant. With all this 3D printing technology that’s going around these days, wouldn’t it be great if you could just print out a new organ instead of waiting for a live donor? Well, that future may be here sooner than we think. As of late April 2019, UC Berkeley researchers finished construction on a device which will be able to print 3D living bone, tissue, blood vessels, and potentially entire organs on demand.

    Currently, this exact same technology is being used to graft brand new skin on to burn victims in real time – and Tel Aviv University successfully printed the first 3D human heart as of mid-April 2019! Unfortunately it’s just a prototype and it’s too small to be transplanted into a human, but it’s an important first step towards the future.

    Senolytics – The Zombie Killer

    Shutterstock 185032865
    Imagine This Happening In Your Body…On A Microscopic Level.

    As the cells in your body begin to age, they start to leak more and more toxins into your blood. Most of the time, when a dying cell becomes too toxic, it goes through a process called “apoptosis” (i.e., a cellular self-destruct sequence). Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. When apoptosis fails in a dying cell, the cell becomes “senescent” and keeps spewing toxic byproducts into your bloodstream while stubbornly refusing to die. In some people, an overabundance of senescent cells causes premature aging, chronic inflammation, and may even lead to cancer.

    But a new class of drugs called senolytics is here to save the day. They’re designed to specifically target these zombie cells which refuse to die and eliminate them from your system. Once these undead cells are cleared and their toxic byproducts are flushed out through the liver, the body rebounds quickly and sometimes even ages in reverse – at least, that’s what scientists have seen in mice so far. Human trials are on the way, though, and things are looking promising.

    Stem Cell Therapy

    Stem cell therapy is also a new – although somewhat controversial – medical practice. It involves:

    1. Extracting stem cells from a person’s bone marrow (or other tissues)
    2. Preparing the stem cells for reinsertion in a plasma rich solution
    3. Injecting the prepared cells into damaged joints or tissues in order to promote healing

    It should be noted that this technology is so new and there are so many different treatments popping up left and right that the FDA (in the US) is playing whack-a-mole sorting out the good from the bad. Most health insurance companies are reluctant to cover stem cell therapy treatment for this reason. But some people consider it a healthier, more effective alternative to surgery and joint replacement. With a little more time and dedicated research, stem cell therapies may even be able to restore vision or smell in people who are having trouble with those organs.