Can Aging be Reversed?

Living longer and being healthier into old age are important goals for most people. Certainly the availability of medications for many conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, greatly improves health and longevity. Coupled with an increased awareness of the need for a healthy life style (exercise, nutrition, weight control), medical advances have greatly extended life span over the last century. Still, physicians and scientists are always looking for new strategies to improve our healthy aging, though mostly with limited success. A recent study published in Aging Cell provides a look at one such new strategy. In a very small trial, 9 men took a drug cocktail (growth hormone plus 2 diabetes medications) for 1 year to see if this combination would improve their immune function. At the end of the study the participants not only showed improved immune function, but also showed an average decrease of 2.5 years on their biological ages (measured by DNA epigenetics). This significant reduction in their biological clock is a tantalizing result suggesting that biopharmaceutical intervention may someday be able to vastly improve our elder years. Before you get too excited though keep in mind that this was a very small study (only 9 participants) that only included white males from 51-65 years of age, with no control group. Optimum dosing regimen, length of persistence of the benefits, long-term side effects, and generalizability of the results to other races, genders, and ages are just some of the questions that need addressing. Even if this study pans out in the future, there is likely no single “magic bullet” that will keep us young and robust, so the best advice for now is still exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.

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