Healthy Aging Drug on the Horizon

Recently, The New York Times published an article about the possibility of an anti-aging drug in our future. You’re probably thinking it’s too good to be true. Well, folks, reality might be closer than you think. A group of doctors is trying to start a drug trial that would target diseases commonly related to aging (think: cancer, dementia, heart disease). This would be a radical shift from typical FDA-approved drug trials, which usually focus on a single treatment for a single disease. It doesn’t mean that drugs will significantly extend your life, though (so don’t plan your 101st birthday party just yet). Instead, the focus is on healthy aging—living healthier longer, and shortening the time spent incapacitated by illness.

The group is planning on testing Metformin, a drug used to treat type-2 diabetes, in a clinical trial with 3,000 elderly subjects. If successful, it could open the door for similar trials on other drugs that target the aging process in the hopes of extending a person’s healthspan (the number of healthy years). According to Dr. James Kirkland, director of the Kogod Center of Aging at the Mayo Clinic, it’s imperative to “…target fundamental aging processes…[to] treat the major age-related chronic illnesses as a group instead of one at a time.” By targeting aging as a whole, doctors can combat risk factors that are linked to multiple diseases rather than treating a patient for one disease (e.g. heart disease) while leaving them at risk for others—like cancer or arthritis.

The development of a healthy aging drug could mean huge benefits for quality of life. It could also lessen the financial burden of healthcare—personally and on a global scale. But, don’t get too excited. Having airbags in your car doesn’t mean you don’t need to wear a seat belt. In the same way, the hope of a new drug doesn’t mean you should forget the importance of a healthy lifestyle! Keep an eye on the horizon, but never forget to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Healthy decisions accumulate and add up to a healthy life.

(Featured image courtesy of freeimages.com)

Nicolette Hoke

Nicolette Hoke is an intern with the Healthy Aging Project, and a student in the Integrative Physiology Department at the University of Colorado Boulder.