The world’s first anti-ageing drug will be tested on humans next year in trials which could result in people being able to live healthily well into their 120s.
Scientists now believe it is possible to stop people growing old as quickly and consign diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to history.
Although it might seem like science fiction – researchers have already proven that the diabetes drug metformin extends the life of animals and the Food and Drug Administration in the US has now given the go-ahead for a trial to see if the same effects can be replicated in humans.
If successful it will mean that a person in their 70s would be as biologically healthy as a 50-year-old.
Ageing expert Prof Gordon Lithgow of the Buck Institute for Research on Ageing in California is one of the study advisers.
He said: ‘If you target an ageing process and you slow down ageing then you slow down all the diseases and pathology of ageing as well.
That’s revolutionary. That’s never happened before.
‘I have been doing research into ageing for 25 years and the idea that we would be talking about a clinical trial in humans for an anti-ageing drug would have been thought inconceivable.
But there is every reason to believe it’s possible. The future is taking the biology that we’ve now developed and applying it to humans’.
Ageing is not an inevitable part of life because all cells contain a DNA blueprint which could keep a body functioning correctly for ever.
Some marine creatures do not age – or grow weaker as time passes – at all.
However over our lifetime billions of cell divisions must occur to keep our bodies functioning correctly and the more times cells divide the more problems grow and cells can no longer repair damage.
Scientists think the best candidate for an anti-ageing drug is metformin – the world’s most widely used diabetes drug which costs just 10 cents a day.
Metformin increases the number of oxygen molecules released into a cell – which appears to boost robustness and longevity.