Anti-ageing drugs have long been in-development, but emerging evidence indicates that life-extending medicine may have already arrived.
Biomedical science is evolving at an unprecedented rate, and a raft of modern drugs and technologies appear as though they may be capable of extending human life by 10 years, according to The New Scientist.
The most promising life-extending drug is based on a compound called rapamycin. It was originally used to suppress the immune system for people receiving organ transplants, but was found to have life-extending properties for yeast and worms.
From there, it was tested on successfully tested on mice, increasing their life by up to 14% despite the fact the animals tested were equivalent to 60 years old.
A bunch of structurally similar compounds called rapalogs – some considered even more potent – led to the development of everolimus, a cancer drug that, following a human pilot trial, was found to partially reverse the immune deterioration of age.
That means it can keep you healthy and resilient up when you're old and grey.
"We are already treating ageing," gerontologist Brian Kennedy told New Scientist. “We have been doing ageing research all along but we didn’t know it.”
The enverolimus test improved participants’ immune response – measured by antibodies in the blood – by more than 20 per cent.
Pharmaceutical researcher Joan Mannick stresses that we should not get carried away - that the study needs repeating and repeating.
She pointed out that the highest dose of rapamycin messed with human metabolism, increasing the odds of developing diabetes, not to mention fatigue and mouth ulcers.
Regardless of this drug’s conclusively, the prospect of life-extending medicine has become tantalisingly close.
There’s type 2 diabetes medicine Metformin that extends the lifespan of small animals by around 5 per cent and is ready for human trials, according to Nir Barzilai, Head of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
Well-funded futuristic projects are cropping up all over the place. Google last year founded Calico, a company focused on health and well-being.
Google CEO Larry Page ambitious said: “Illness and aging affect all our families. With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives.”
And the Human Longevity project, which secured $70 million in its first round of fundraising, aims “to tackle the diseases associated with ageing-related human biological decline.”
Life expectancy in the UK is 81.5 years, according to World Bank statistics.
There are also all sorts of questions practical and philosophical – such as overpopulation and quality of life – to consider if and when anti-ageing drugs arrive in earnest.
That day appears as though it may come soon.