Scientists have made a discovery that could lead to a revolutionary drug that reverses ageing.
Experiments from a team at the University of New South Wales suggest a treatment is possible to repair DNA damage from both ageing and radiation. The ‘call signaling' molecule is called NAD+. NAD+ is naturally in every cell of the body and posseses a key role in protein interactions (which control DNA repair.).
When treating mice with an NAD+ 'booster' called NMN , studies showed improvement in the cells' ability to repair the damaged DNA.
“This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that's perhaps only three to five years away from being on the market if the trials go well. In the study, cells of old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice after just one week of treatment,” said lead author Professor David Sinclair.
Professor Sinclair pictured in the middle.
The work has also drawn the attention of NASA which is interested in its uses in the challenge of keeping astronauts healthy while in space. On short missions, astronauts experience accelerated ageing due to exposure from cosmic radiation, suffering from muscle weakness, memory loss and other symptoms when they return. On longer missions, like a trip to Mars, the situation would be far worse. Five per cent of the astronauts' cells would die and their chances of cancer would approach near 100 per cent.
Professor Sinclair and his colleague Dr Lindsay Wu were winners in NASA's iTech competition in December last year:
'We came in with a solution for a biological problem and it won the competition out of 300 entries,' Dr Wu said.
Cosmic radiation isn't an issue exclusive to astronauts. We are all exposed to radiation aboard aircraft. A London-Singapore-Melbourne flight is equivalent in radiation to a chest x-ray.
The other group that could benefit from this work is survivors of childhood cancers. 96 percent of childhood cancer survivors suffer a chronic illness by age 45. This includes cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and certain forms of cancer.
The human trials for the anti ageing pill will begin this year at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston.