Among other explorers, Juan Ponce de Leon is well known for his quest to find the fountain of youth. References to such mythical restorative sources of eternal youth stretch back thousands of years. Today, science and medical research apply a modern approach to life extension and health restoration. This article examines some of these techniques and methods to improve life expectancy and quality of living.
One approach to improving vitality and slowing aging is to trigger the body’s own systems that repair the damage. Hormones play an integral role in regulating human self-healing. Human growth hormone (HGH), for instance, has been shown to signal many different kinds of cell growth that accompany tissue repair. Therapies using synthetic HGH, while sometimes useful, may lead to complications. Alternative therapy is to use the peptide sermorelin to stimulate the body’s internal production of HGH. This approach is aimed at helping naturally maintain healthy levels of HGH over time. Therapies like this one provide benefits now. The understanding of human physiology is improving. Research work on hormones and other biological systems promise new discoveries in slowing the aging process.
Miniaturization of Medical Tools
The field of miniaturized robotics or nanomedicine is a hopeful contender to fight the war on aging. This approach to extending life and improving health proposes to use cell-sized (or smaller) robots. These tiny machines would be capable of two approaches to life-extension and health care. One is the repair of damage to biological systems associated with aging at the cellular level. This might, for example, include the replacement or repair of specific kinds of cells throughout the body. Another is to very accurately treat specific organs or systems within a living person. This approach might include the pinpoint delivery of drugs or other therapies to highly specific locations within the body. While beyond the current capabilities of medical science, rapid progress in this field is being made.
The gene-editing tool CRISP/Cas9 is being used to develop a gene therapy to treat an accelerated aging disease. Scientists working on mice with a condition called Hutchinson-Gilford progeria were able to edit genes that reduce the disease’s negative effects. Developments like this one hail a new era in genetic interventions that could one day significantly increase life expectancy. Another clinical trial was announced in November of 2019 proposing to test a gene therapy claimed to “cure and reverse aging by 20 years”. Controversy and ethical implications aside, new genetic approaches to life extension are proceeding rapidly.
Aside from the methods previously mentioned, medical professionals propose some less exotic methods. Diets that avoid saturated fats and processed food along with regular exercise are recommended lifestyles that support longevity as well as good health. Regular primary care physician appointments to monitor things like blood pressure and blood sugar allow the addition of drug therapies to treat any age-related problems that arise. While perhaps not as high tech, these are some of our best tools to combat the degenerative effects of aging.
It is easy to overlook the fact that modern medicine has already done much to extend human life. When Juan Ponce de Leon was searching for the fountain of youth average life expectancy was somewhere between 30 and 40 years. The advent of sterilized surgical tools and antibiotics were key milestones along the road to today’s improved life expectancy. The fountain of youth may forever elude us, but one day in the not too distant future we may be able to dramatically increase lifetimes.