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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Adding ages: The fight to cheat death is hotting up

The Economist
Originally published August 13, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Scientists at the Institute for Ageing Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York, want to mount a trial of metformin in elderly subjects to see whether it delays various maladies (and also death). If that turns out to be the case, it will go a long way to showing that there is a generalised ageing process that can be modulated with drugs. Nir Barzilai, one of the researchers involved, says an important reason to do the trial is to have an indication against which next-generation ageing drugs can be assessed by regulators.

This sort of interest seems to be triggering a change of tone at America’s Food and Drug Administration over whether it might approve an anti-ageing drug. The regulator is thinking about when a broad, and so far unprecedented, claim of anti-ageing might be considered to be supported by the evidence; it is “looking forward to seeing this area of science evolve”. In the dry language of a government agency these are encouraging words.

If an unregulated diet can do the trick, why does the world need drugs? Three reasons. One is that taking a few pills a day will be easier for most than subsisting on low-calorie muffins and salad. A second is that companies can make money making pills and will compete to create them. A third is that pills may work better than diets. Dr Barzilai, who is in the pill camp, points out that CR works less well in primates than other mammals, and that people with low body-mass indices, a natural condition for those restricting their calories, are in general more likely to die. Those who do well on CR, he says, are likely to be a subset benefiting from the right genetic make-up. His hope is that a range of targeted therapies might allow everyone to get the benefits.

The article is here.
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