A look into Anti-aging Research

As early as 2018, Citigroup, one of the world's largest financial services providers, published a Top 10 list of emerging research topics. Among them: anti-aging medicine! In the accompanying study, they said: "The science and technology needed to develop therapies has advanced rapidly in recent years. Anti-aging drugs will soon become reality.”

Among these emerging technologies is a novel method that, for the first time, provides us with detailed knowledge of the processes inside cells. Single cell sequencing (single cell analysis) allows us to read the genetic material of a single cell. One gets a fingerprint of the current state of the cell, says Herbert Schiller from the Institute of Lung Biology and Disease at Helmholtz Zentrum München. It is even possible to determine which genes are currently switched on and which proteins are produced in the cell. This new technology has allowed us to decipher cell activity.

So where do we stand in researching "eternal youth"? David Sinclaire, one of the leading geneticists at Harvard University, believes it is possible that the current record of 122 years of life could soon rise to 150 years - while taking active substances, of course. These active ingredients are intended to specifically combat the aging of the organism in the cells and thus allow us to age in a healthy way.

Where can we buy these miracle active ingredients? - Well, it is not quite that simple. Although we know that anti-aging is much more than wrinkle cream, dietary supplements and diets, we still don't know enough. Above all, the connections between the individual elements are still a mystery.

What is clear is that aging is a dynamic process "that can be accelerated or slowed down and in some cases even reversed," as molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn writes. The Australian was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her groundbreaking research in the field. She discovered the importance of the so-called telomeres for cell aging. In a sense, these are protective caps from our genetic material - our DNA - which ensure that our genetic threads do not fray at the ends and are thus protected from damage.

This area of research is based on a phenomenon first systematically explored by the biologist Leonard Hayflick in 1961. He observed the proliferation of human cells in his laboratory at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. These cells initially divided explosively. After 40 to 50 divisions, however, the process suddenly came to a halt. The cells went into a permanent rest.

One reason for this is the role of telomeres in cell maintenance. When their protection is worn out, the cell retires. Researchers call this state of exhaustion "senescence". It has a generally positive background, preventing damaged genetic material in old cells from dividing further and multiplying. If left unkept, this damaged genetic material can pose serious health complications.

Old cells no longer understand the received messages correctly and pass them on as false signals. This makes them susceptible to pain and, in some cases, age-related chronic diseases. Our current understanding of this process is one of importance to positively influence the aging process.

International research teams are currently working on appropriate drugs that are already being investigated in clinical trials on humans. The focus is on a wide range of research topics: the spectrum ranges from substances that keep stem cells fit and dividing, to active ingredients that mimic the chemical signals of healthy stem cells, to supplying weakened body cells with urgently needed nutrients.

As recently as 2019, the biotech company Intervene Immune presented a new study at an anti-aging congress in New York, in which they succeeded in using certain substances to grow new tissue in the thymus gland, which is important for the immune system. According to Intervene Immune, the biological age of the subjects also decreased by 18 months during the study period of one year - measured by certain characteristics in the genetic material.

As promising as this may sound, it remains to be seen whether the observed effect can also be seen in a broader target group. Other sub-areas of anti-aging research also show promising results, but they all have one thing in common: the only thing we can say with certainty is that aging is complicated. Because, as Herbert Schiller's research on cell aging in mice at the Institute of Lung Biology and Disease at Helmholtz Zentrum München has shown, cells of one type do not always behave in the same way.