For centuries mankind has been searching for the fountain of youth answer to stave off aging, and now scientists have announced that a new drug could bump the human lifespan up an extra 40 years.
The drug called Metformin is actually a diabetes drug that has been proven to extend the lifespan of animals by slowing down the aging process. The Food and Drug Administration has given the green light for its human trials this year, to test if it has the same effects on humans as on animals. What makes Metformin so unique (if proven successful on humans) is it will usher in a new wave of medicine where doctors focus less on diseases like cancer, diabetes and dementia, but more on the culprit that brings upon the diseases – aging.
“If you target an ageing process and you slow down ageing then you slow down all the diseases and pathology of ageing as well,” said Professor Gordon Lithgow of the Buck Institute for Research on Ageing in California. “That’s revolutionary. That’s never happened before.”
Most species of animal life on our planet do age – however, not all, some ocean life does not – because over our lives billions of cell divisions occur to keep our bodies functioning. As cells divide over and over, disease can creep in and the body can no longer repair the damages, such as when cancerous tumors form. Metformin will increase the number of oxygen molecules released into a cell and boost the cells longevity.
The study will be covered by National Geographic and include some three thousands 70 to 80-year-olds who have or are at risk for diseases like heart disease and dementia. “If we can slow ageing in humans, even by just a little bit it would be monumental. People could be older, and feel young,” said Dr Jay Olshansky, of the University of Illinois Chicago.
Right now a baby boy born in a first-world country is projected to have an average lifespan of 78.8 years and a baby girl to have an average lifespan of 82.8 years. However, if Metformin yields the same results in animals as it does in humans, that lifespan could increase of almost 50 percent.
While a healthy lifestyle of regular exercise and good eating is the best way to prolong life, doctors like professor Lithgow believe it is possible that young people may one day receive an anti-aging vaccine.
While eradicating disease and prolonging life has always been one of the goals of science, what kind of impact would an average lifespan bump of 40 years have on our population and planet? There are already food and water shortages in many parts of the world, and by 2050 there might be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Can our planet sustain us all hanging around until we are 120? One thing is for sure, raising the average lifespan will have major consequences on society, whereas it is age of retirement, social security / health-care costs, senior housing management or access to resources. Questions that should be taken into consideration by scientists before making the option of living older a reality.