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Telomere-activating compound puts researchers on the 'cusp of curing aging'

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September 13, 2010

An illustration of a telomerase molecule (Image: Sierra Sciences, LLC)

An illustration of a telomerase molecule (Image: Sierra Sciences, LLC)

For many scientists who know about such things, the question isn’t whether the first person to live forever has been born, but how old they are. The basis for this belief is that, if a person can survive the next 20 or 30 years, then breakthroughs in biotechnology will easily allow them to extend their lifespan – not to mention their quality of life – to 125 years. From that point, the advances will keep coming to allow the prolonging of life indefinitely. One of the first steps towards such a reality has just been announced by a group of researchers who have discovered the first compound that activates an enzyme called telomerase in the human body.

"Clock of aging"

A region of repetitive DNA at the end of a chromosome called a telomere, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration, is thought to be the "clock of aging" contained within the human body. Many scientists believe that the limit on lifespan and decline in health is imposed by the gradual shortening of our telomeres that occurs with every cell division. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that a human cell that does not undergo telomere shortening will divide indefinitely and is, by all available measurements, immortal.

Now researchers at Sierra Sciences, in collaboration with colleagues at TA Sciences, Geron Corporation, PhysioAge, and the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), have discovered the first compound that activates telomerase – an enzyme that lengthens telomeres – in the human body, potentially opening the door to arresting or even reversing the aging process.

TA-65

The compound, a natural product derived nutraceutical known as TA-65, was shown to lengthen the shortest telomeres in humans, potentially extending human lifespan and healthspan. Telomerase activation is thought to be a keystone of future regenerative medicine and a necessary condition for clinical immortality.

Although TA-65 is probably too weak to completely arrest the aging process, it is the first telomerase activator recognized as safe for human use.

"We are on the cusp of curing aging," said William Andrews, Ph.D., co-author of this study and President and CEO of Sierra Sciences, LLC. "TA-65 is going to go down in history as the first supplement you can take that doesn't merely extend your life a few years by improving your health, but actually affects the underlying mechanisms of aging. Better telomerase inducers will be developed in the coming years, but TA-65 is the first of a whole new family of telomerase-activating therapies that could eventually keep us young and healthy forever."

Multiple benefits

Telomerase activation has potential medical applications beyond extending human lifespan. Epidemiological studies have shown that short telomeres in humans are a risk factor for diseases including, among others, atherosclerosis, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and cancer.

The team’s study also reports encouraging news on the effect of TA-65 on the body's immune system. Infectious diseases lead to telomere shortening in the immune system, as immune cells divide to fight infections. Telomerase activation should prevent this telomere shortening and allow the body's immune system to fight a chronic infection indefinitely.

The present study on TA-65 lends support to this hypothesis. In individuals infected with CMV, a virus which prematurely ages the immune system and significantly reduces life expectancy, TA-65 caused an apparent "age reversal" of approximately 5 to 20 years based on one biomarker of immune aging.

For the same reason, telomerase activation is a potential treatment for AIDS. "We tend to see HIV turning into AIDS when the cells of the immune system develop critically short telomeres," said Andrews. "HIV can essentially cause the immune system to die of old age while the majority of the body is still young. A telomerase activator could theoretically prevent an HIV-positive individual from ever developing AIDS."

Significantly extending human lifespan and healthspan poses serious questions for mankind. Aside from the positive economic benefits of eliminating age-related health problems to enable people to enjoy retirement illness-free – or work many more years – there are massive implications for the world population. In 2007 the United Nations Population Division projected that the world’s population will likely surpass 10 billion in 2055. It’s unlikely they factored in that many people – at least in wealthier countries – might stop dying when making their calculations. The resulting population explosion would place huge demands on energy, land, food and water. We better hope that breakthroughs in those areas keep apace with the breakthroughs in biotechnology or we might have to start considering a Logan’s Run type solution.

The researcher's findings appear as a research article entitled 'A natural product telomerase activator as part of a health maintenance program,' published September 7, 2010 ahead of print in the peer-reviewed journal Rejuvenation Research.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
23 Comments

"if a person can survive the next 20 or 30 years, then breakthroughs in biotechnology will easily allow them to extend their lifespan - not to mention their quality of life - to 125 years"

Maybe a PhD in mathematics ,physics and computer science is in reach after all !

Darwinian Roadkill
13th September, 2010 @ 09:47 pm PDT

sign me up for this!! if they need testers..

David Larson
13th September, 2010 @ 10:45 pm PDT

Caution beware - TA-65 is derived from astralgus, a root that's been used by the Chinese as a staple herb for centuries. While I am not disclaiming its numerous benefits - better energy, boosting of the immune system, etc. I am wary of the claims about it extending one's lifespan. To date there has been no data indicating that people who have taken this root live till 125. If this were true, then the Chinese would hold the record for having the longest lifespan on this planet - which they do not. It's troubling to watch people use nobel-prize winning discoveries to rip off the general public. Now some companies are willing to sell this stuff for $8,000, because of some gullible folks out there.

Schi Wei
13th September, 2010 @ 11:09 pm PDT

@Schi Wei: Not to even mention the amount one has to consume for it to be available to every cell!

But that's not what worries me. Just imagine... over 7 billion people on this planet, becoming immortal, and continuing to reproduce. Even without immortality, it's already a problem to house and feed them all, even if we WOULD try. Now imagine the same planet WITH immortality... Sounds like disaster to me.

BoilingOil
14th September, 2010 @ 05:19 am PDT

Instead, we should execute every last one us, commit suicide, and all be neutered! That will solve the problem for sure /sarcasm /fail /owned

Jonathan Carcopo
14th September, 2010 @ 06:51 am PDT

@Schi Wei: That's ridiculous, sorry. Just imagine the world right now, with millions of people dying each day of various dreadful diseases and we are just accepting of it. I'll take the problem of feeding people over the problem of aging any day.

@David Larsen: The researchers are not suggesting we eat their drug.

@ the authors of the article: Your article is irresponsibly over the top, full of hype and unsupportable claims. This compound has not been shown to have any effect on extending life, except theoretically. It's great news, but you are just hyping this looking for ad revenue and it's a cheap tactic.

wealthychef
14th September, 2010 @ 07:37 am PDT

Once this is proven safe and efficacious, sign me up. I agree with Darwinian Roadkill, that this would put the planets future technological advancement on steroid, as smarty pants everywhere work to solve problems.

Facebook User
14th September, 2010 @ 09:00 am PDT

If this really works, there goes my pension... but what worries me is who will benefit. Any means to up your life expectancy, let alone the holy grail of everlasting youth will not come cheap. And with that we come to a different side of this story, namely the ethical part. Who will be left behind (left to die) because of lack of funds? Another side.. what does this mean for the population explosion if eventually we all live to be 125, 150 or more years old?

I´d love to see the CV´s of those who go back to work "152 year old, looks 18, 72 years of experience as corporate lawyer, 34 as artist, 44 as secretary, 23 as.... "

wow.. I was mildly worried I´d never see Naples for lack of interest but now, why the hell not?

bas
14th September, 2010 @ 05:35 pm PDT

Now they need a cure for "retirement", and keep the 125 year-olds off the social security payroll! ;)

matthew.rings
14th September, 2010 @ 06:02 pm PDT

Remember the movie 'Cocoon' ?

If you never die (of natural causes) the cost of living goes down ?

No heaven or hell ?

Imagine there's no heaven.. It's easy if you can.

Materialistic aspirations will not exist ?

You can give me the next line ?

Bernard Howard
14th September, 2010 @ 08:05 pm PDT

Even if life is prolonged, do not expect anyone at age 150 to look like 18. Deformation WILL occur in an ageing body, even if the cells "think" the are young. Eventually, if one lived long enough, say a few thousand years, one will moreprobably look like Herbert's navigator.

Damjan Pavlovec
14th September, 2010 @ 11:24 pm PDT

Future winner industries : pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, universities, leisure, crime, shrinks, marriage counseling, agriculture, sex

Future losers : kid's schools, life insurance and maternities

Oh well, I can do without those :-)

Fouture
15th September, 2010 @ 02:06 am PDT

As for the drug coming from a Chinese herb: yes it is derived from the herb, it isn't the actual herb and may not actually exist in its active form in the herb. Your own observation about the lifespan of Chinese people would indicate that. Duh.

I'm surprised there aren't more people chiming in on the whole "We aren't meant to live that long! We already live too long!" etc. To whom I say: go kill yourself and help the rest of us out then, me, I'd be happy to live until I chose not to.

@Damjan Pavlovec: I agree! I'm only 35 but I have scars, burns, short toenails, chipped teeth and sun damaged skin (a nice tan). In another 100 years of active lifestyle I would be quite recognisably older than an 18 year old.

Imagine new graduates trying to compete in jobs with people who have 100 years experience doing something? Imagine the art and philosophy. The drugs / treatment would only be expensive for the duration of the patents then competition would bring the price down. There would be those who can afford more perfect age reduction but I imagine even the poorest would have some access to the "asprin" of anti-aging.

Scion
15th September, 2010 @ 06:51 pm PDT

Easy solution to over crowding. Sell the anti aging drugs only to voluntarily sterilised people who have not had any children.

Facebook User
15th September, 2010 @ 10:39 pm PDT

Almost all of the problems facing Mankind, be it Global Warming, lack of clean water, lack of food, lack of medical care can all be attributed to exceedingly successful procreation. The species as a whole needs a global contraceptive to offset our "success". This breakthrough if true, could be disasterous without some countermeasure. It also punctuates the problem of "outliuving your money".

Burnerjack
16th September, 2010 @ 03:25 pm PDT

I have just one question: They say our bodies completely regenerate our cells every so often. So why do my 'baby-fresh new wrinkles' look exactly like my oldie-goldie wrinkles I had a few months ago? In other words, why is this dumb ol' bod of mine remaking 'old' cells and not replacing them with 'new' ones?

Yes, it's nice to know someone is looking into why we are aging/dieing, but maybe there's a reason for it after all: incentive to make the best of the life we know is too short at best. Give me a hundred more years and I bet I'll let the grass go a few more days too.

seekertom
18th September, 2010 @ 09:52 am PDT

"Who will be left behind (left to die) because of lack of funds?"

This is a scenario I've been thinking about for quite some time. You might see procreation grind to a halt in first world nations while continuing unabated in third world nations with significant global implications. I've also heard this discussed in the context of religion. Will it be proscribed by the world's major religions, which use fear of punishment after death to coerce compliance? Or would people choose guaranteed immortality now rather than an unproven promise of some form of spiritual immortality after death, ending the role of religion in human history?

Despite the exuberance of the scientist and his TA-65, telomeres are not the only cause of aging. The University of Utah has a good article about this at

http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/traits/telomeres/

with information such as "Some long-lived species like humans have telomeres that are much shorter than species like mice, which live only a few years. Nobody yet knows why. But it's evidence that telomeres alone do not dictate lifespan.

"Cawthon's study found that when people are divided into two groups based on telomere lengths, the half with longer telomeres lives five years longer than those with shorter telomeres. That suggests lifespan could be increased five years by increasing the length of telomeres in people with shorter ones.

"People with longer telomeres still experience telomere shortening as they age. How many years might be added to our lifespan by completely stopping telomere shortening? Cawthon believes 10 years and perhaps 30 years. "

It goes on to discuss the other types of wearing down and damage incurred with aging and how all of these need to be addressed.

@Damjan "Even if life is prolonged, do not expect anyone at age 150 to look like 18."

If someone's lived to 150, and especially if religious objections are removed, human cloning should have been achieved. In that case, in 18 years someone could have a new body, and every 18 years thereafter. There'd be no need to grow biologically older than 36.

alcalde
20th September, 2010 @ 10:45 am PDT

I would expect a lot of people suicideing after living to 200 with the last 120 years of absolute boredom. Only a fool would want to live forever.

monkeybump
21st September, 2010 @ 06:47 pm PDT

I'm excited as Dr. Bill Andrews,founder, President and CEO of Sierra Sciences, LLC, a company devoted to finding ways to extend our healthspans and lifespans beyond the theoretical maximum of 125 years. has partnered with our product formulator and my company IS the only company that will have the rights to this anti-aging product when it becomes available. Non-compromised product!!

Mary Angolano Burrell
23rd September, 2010 @ 10:27 am PDT

first, spell my name right if you comment to me.. it's just annoying.

second, while I'm up to try things that improve my life and health, no one said this was "the cure all" for aging. Just the first step. like a vaccine for polio, it prevents polio but doesn't make you live longer, it just solves one small part. As to feeding everyone, we already have the resources for that, it's just so many are greedy and hoarding that they do not share it equally. starving in africa, obese in europe. rich in europe, poor in china. soon rich in china poor every where else. Lots of social issues to work out first.

but to live longer with health and vigor? sure, I'm up for it.

David Larson
25th September, 2010 @ 11:07 am PDT

What utter fool would want to live forever.

1. Brain has finite memory. Eventual insanity without brain memory editing.

2. Boredom, after a few thousand years there would be nothing you hadn't done.

3. Stupidity, Eventually only rich stupid unfeeling people would be left.

4. Exclusivity, Ya really think the little guy will get this?

monkeybump
29th September, 2010 @ 04:28 pm PDT

read the wikipedia article on ta-65. it may or may not cause cancer. it may prevent cancer. however current research seems to suggest rather that it will cause it. so don't get too excited just yet people. besides, it's just a herb ground up into a lot of pills pretty much, this isn't revolutionary.

Samantha Renault
15th November, 2011 @ 10:10 pm PST

So many interesting comments, yet I did not see anyone commenting on how great it would be to have a much younger bio-age than our current one. I am taking the newest version of this product and it has done absolute wonders for me. I have increased energy, clarity, drive and enthusiasm for life. It has made a difference to many of my complaints which just never seemed to leave completely. It has an incredibly great affect on my immune system and I will continue to spread the good word and help as many people I can to see why this telomere activation is so beneficial to us all.

Christina Cunningham
28th January, 2013 @ 04:39 pm PST
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