Who will find the Fountain of Youth? The race is on and it should accelerate to 2023. Between cell reprogramming or destruction of zombie cells, inventory.
Can we find (almost) eternal youth? This dream has long been associated with a dream of enthusiastic transhumanists or cracked billionaires. But in recent years, many research groups have been seriously working on the subject. Some have even set up startups in hopes of bringing products to market that are accessible to the general public.
Destroy our old cells
The research: As they age, our cells enter a state called senescence. These cells, sometimes called “zombie”, are the cause of chronic inflammation of our tissues, the cause of aging. To prevent aging, some researchers therefore consider simply removing these cells that have accumulated in the body. This is particularly the case of the team from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester in the United States. In 2017, he proved that drugs that eliminate senescent cells can extend life expectancy by 30% in mice. The technology was ranked the most promising by review MIT Technology Review in 2020.
The company to follow : The Mayo Clinic is behind the start-up Unity Biotechnology, which is developing so-called senolytic treatments to treat certain eye diseases and lung fibrosis. About twenty other companies are in the niche of destroying old cells, specified Wired. American magazine estimates that we should see a drug using this technology tested in humans by 2023.
Reprogram the cells
The research: Instead of slowing down aging, why not do it altogether? This is the idea of researchers working on cell reprogramming. Their purpose is to “reset” in some way. Because cellular reprogramming involves rejuvenating tissues by regenerating aging cells. The pioneer in this field is the Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka. In 2007, he and his team showed that it is possible to return a cell to its embryonic stage, to bring it back in time in a short time thanks to a mixture of proteins. Other work followed, especially that of Jean-Marc Lemaitre in France, or Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte in the United States, who proved it was possible to rejuvenate mice by using and supplementing the yamanaka method.
The company to follow : If this technology is being talked about in particular, it is because it is backed by billions of dollars. Altos Lab, an American start-up that received $3 billion in funding from Jeff Bezos, among others, according to MIT Technology Review, launched in January 2022 with the hope of having an elixir of youth through cellular reprogramming. The young company recruited pundits from the estate, including Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, who believed that thewe can increase people’s life expectancy by about 50 years. Altos Lab is not the only one working on this topic. Other companies include New Limit, Life Biosciences, Turn Biotechnologies, AgeX Therapeutics, and Shift Bioscience.
Genes are at play
The research: In 1993, molecular biology researcher Cynthia Kenyon and her team succeeded in doubling the life expectancy of a worm by deleting one of its genes. For the worm, that means an extra twenty days, but the researcher dared to compare it to humans. “Imagine being 140 years old! “, he said at the end of his title. His work opened a new area of research focused on the identification of genetic markers associated with old age or, on the contrary, with long life expectancy in some species of animals like the whale and the naked mole-rat, for example.
The company will: Trying to prolong the lives of dogs to attack people’s lives later. This is the thesis defended by Loyal, a young company in California founded by young and talented researcher Celine Halioua. Loyal, which has raised $58 million, aims to identify markers of aging in dogs, to better control them. The startup has developed two drugs whose function remains unclear for now. One will be given to small breed dogs whose clinical trials have been underway since September and another for large breeds that are due to be tested this year. The startup plans its first commercializations in 2024, provided the FDA certifies its products. By first working with dogs, Celine Halioua hopes to break down the psychological barriers that slow down the fight against aging, she explained to Wired. Because their lifestyles are more like humans than laboratory rats.