Is aging a disease? Is it a medical condition? It seems like the logical answer to these questions is no. Aging is a natural process that happens to everyone, not a disease or medical condition. But many scientists disagree that aging is a natural process we must accept. Instead, they believe the aging process can be slowed even if it cannot be completely stopped, and they are making great strides in their anti-aging research.
As we shift our mindset and no longer consider aging inevitable, scientists can conduct clinical trials and receive financial grant support for anti-aging research. Over the next decade, consumers can expect increasing news reports and updates on anti-aging products and scientific research supporting their benefits.
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The National Institutes of Aging in the United States, a component of the National Institutes of Health, is funding clinical trials for interventions that directly investigate the causes of age-related diseases. Researchers are invited to submit applications for Phase 1, 2a, and 2b clinical trials to investigate new compounds or re-purposed existing drugs, biologics, or supplements to treat multiple chronic conditions by modulating age-related mechanisms or diseases that disproportionately affect older adults.
This grant invitation is important because it is broad. When writing grant proposals and endpoints, researchers do not need to limit themselves to one specific disease or medical condition. This funding opens the door for researchers to test drugs and supplements that may affect any part of the aging process.
Anti-aging research, specifically anti-aging genetic research, will have powerful health and wellness implications. It also is financially lucrative. By 2030, the anti-aging market is expected to grow to around $119.6 billion. Anti-aging research and therapies are not limited to a more youthful appearance. Anti-aging research may focus on improving:
It’s never too early to think about anti-aging. Aging is the greatest risk factor for most chronic diseases. In many cases, a chronic disease develops as a person reaches their 60s, becoming a slippery slope as one chronic disease increases the risk of developing more. Obesity increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These diseases increase the risk of cancer and dementia, and so on. Treating chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer adds years to your life, and cumulatively, the years they add are greater than the sum of years added by eradicating each disease.1
After a specific point in their development, embryonic stem cells become committed to developing into a specific cell type. Before this point, these stem cells are pluripotent because they were not yet committed to a specific cell type. However, once cells become committed, for example, to become muscle cells, they typically cannot go backward in time. Each time a committed cell divides, the caps on the chromosomes, called telomeres, in that cell become slightly shorter. This limits the number of times a cell can divide over a lifetime.
Proteins, known as Yamanaka factors, are commonly used to transform adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells. These iPS cells can become nearly any cell type in the body, acting much like embryonic stem cells. Researchers are working on how to apply Yamanaka factors to bring cells back far enough in their cellular history to mitigate cellular aging and repair tissues, but not allowing these cells to go back to where one cell type can turn into another and increase the risk of developing tumors.
iPS cells can be used in clinical trials to test medications and supplements, but even more importantly, they may be transplanted into aging body tissue, restoring youthful properties such as muscle strength.2
The World Health Organization now formally recognizes aging as a disease in its latest International Classification of Diseases, which opens the door for developing therapeutic interventions that specifically target aging and age-related diseases.
The National Institute on Aging divides the clinical trials it supports into those related to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and trials not related to Alzheimer’s disease. A search on clinicaltrials.gov using the search term “anti-aging” and limited to the United States, brings up 38 studies on 11/2/22. Of these studies, 27 are completed.
Skin related studies
Diabetes, obesity and weight-related studies
Microbiome related studies
Brain and cognitive function-related studies
Strength and muscle function-related studies
General anti-aging function-related studies
Clinical trials in various stages of completion also focus on age-related macular degeneration, stem cells, and anti-aging drugs that may support immune function. The majority of clinical trials take about six to seven years to complete. Researchers have to go through at least four stages of research to show that their drug or product is safe and works.
Some interesting anti-aging projects include Dr. David Sinclair’s work to partially reprogram mouse eye cells so that mice with glaucoma can see again. This ability to turn back time in body cells uses information stored in the tissue record of epigenetic changes over a lifetime.3 This process can be likened to a system restore on a computer. Altos Labs is also focusing on partial cellular reprogramming.
LyGenesis is a tissue and organ regeneration company that successfully regrew functional organs from a patient’s lymph nodes. More people need organs than can ever be met. LyGenesis is working on regenerating organs such as livers from a patient’s own lymph nodes. A single donor organ is divided into multiple sets of engrafted cells, which are transplanted in the patient’s lymph nodes. These transplanted cells grow into mini-functional livers. This technology can be used to grow pancreatic, thymic, thyroid, and other tissues.
Anti-aging genetic research has led to the development of epigenetic clocks that are more accurate than chronological age in estimating biological age. Researchers are using these epigenetic clocks to track whether aging can be reversed. For example, the TRIIM (Thymus Regeneration, Immunorestoration, and Insulin Mitigation) clinical trial investigated the possibility of using recombinant human growth hormone to reverse immune system aging. Researchers demonstrated a 2-year decrease in epigenetic versus chronological age that persisted after six months. This research provides evidence that age reversal is really possible.
Anti-aging medicine as a science is still in its infancy, but it is one of the fastest-growing and most exciting fields of science. Examples of anti-aging methods and ideas include:
Anti-aging research has a primary goal of extending healthspan, not lifespan. Coming up with alternatives to organ transplantation, reprogramming cells to earlier points in their development, and modifying the genome to cure or treat disease are all likely to reduce chronic disease, extending the time you spend on earth as a healthier, more active, and more productive person.
Potential benefits of anti-aging research and management techniques include:
These new technologies, combined with a healthy diet and a focus on prioritizing daily physical activity, will help you stay healthy and look good at any age without needing surgery.
Anti-aging medicine aims to understand the metabolic and genetic changes that occur over a lifetime and cause the symptoms associated with aging. It is a field with great promise. However, there are technological, legal, and funding obstacles that have slowed the progress of anti-aging research.
Some of these obstacles include:
Anti-aging research is a field that is growing quickly and is likely to see a lot of exciting changes over the next few years. Watch for news and updates about anti-aging projects. In the meantime, consider how lifestyle choices, diet, and exercise affect your risk for aging-related chronic diseases.
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.
1. Nielsen JL, Bakula D, Scheibye-Knudsen M. Clinical Trials Targeting Aging. Mini Review. Frontiers in Aging. 2022-February-04 2022;3doi:10.3389/fragi.2022.820215
2. Mendelsohn AR, Mendelsohn AR, Lei J. Chapter 21 – Rejuvenation through iPSCs and reprogramming in vivo and in vitro. In: Birbrair A, ed. Current Topics in iPSCs Technology. Academic Press; 2022:571-587.
3. Lu Y, Brommer B, Tian X, et al. Reprogramming to recover youthful epigenetic information and restore vision. Nature. 2020/12/01 2020;588(7836):124-129. doi:10.1038/s41586-020-2975-4
4. Tabibzadeh S. Repair, regeneration and rejuvenation require un-entangling pluripotency from senescence. Ageing Res Rev. Sep 2022;80:101663. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2022.101663
5. Ramunas J, Yakubov E, Brady JJ, et al. Transient delivery of modified mRNA encoding TERT rapidly extends telomeres in human cells. Faseb j. May 2015;29(5):1930-9. doi:10.1096/fj.14-259531
6. Xu J-z, Zhou Y-m, Zhang L-l, et al. BMP9 reduces age-related bone loss in mice by inhibiting osteoblast senescence through Smad1-Stat1-P21 axis. Cell Death Discovery. 2022/05/06 2022;8(1):254. doi:10.1038/s41420-022-01048-8
7. Xu Y, Chen G, Guo M. Potential Anti-aging Components From Moringa oleifera Leaves Explored by Affinity Ultrafiltration With Multiple Drug Targets. Original Research. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2022-May-10 2022;9doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.854882