Locoweed is a member of the Astragalus genus. (Photo by MiguelVieira)
The Globe and Mail, Canada's biggest newspaper, seems to have jumped on the anti-aging bandwagon. Their surprisingly positive piece on increasing telomerase appeared last month, but I ran across it only now.
The article is about multimillionaire life-extensionist Noel Patton, who apparently is not completely satisfied with the idea of dying of old age. Fair enough, but how exactly does he plan on conquering death? Enter the Patton Protocol:
It begins with taking 14 vials of blood from the customer and sending them to four different labs to undergo 90 different tests, including measurements for telomere length. Six months after the customers start taking the astragalus-derived pills, they return to have their biomarkers retested.
Telomeres are like protective caps at the end of chromosomes. With every cell division, telomeres get shorter, which ultimately limits cells to a fixed number of divisions (known as the Hayflick limit). This is why telomere shortening has been suggested as one cause of aging.
Astragalus membranaceus, the key ingredient of the Patton Protocol, is a plant that is said to activate telomerase. Telomerase is an enzyme that increases telomere length. The idea, then, is that by increasing telomerase you increase telomere length and ultimately prevent aging. Whether or not it will increase lifespan in humans is unknown, but it does seem like a promising strategy in fighting at least one aspect of aging.
I certainly think such strategies are very welcome, and even if they do prove to not be useful, we're better off knowing sooner rather than later. Without extensive clinical trials behind the protocol, Patton's clients are acting as guinea pigs, and I commend them for it. We need more human experimenters!
And while I said the piece is surprisingly positive, perhaps it's not so surprising after all, since Canadians seem to be more interested in studying aging than a lot of other countries:
And next year in Canada, 160 investigators from several universities will launch the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, which will follow 50,000 men and women 45 to 85 years old for at least two decades, probing the subjects' biological, psychological, social and economic changes over time. It is being billed as the most comprehensive aging study ever undertaken.
While this study won't tell us how to prevent and reverse aging, it will likely give us insight into some of the causes of aging and tips on what kind of lifestyles result in longer lifespans. This kind of data, along with evidence from people like Patton and his clients, is surely going to be very beneficial in the long run for everyone interested in living as long and as healthy as possible.
For more information on anti-aging, see these posts:
Anti-Aging in the Media: 60 Minutes on Resveratrol
Anti-Aging in the Media: Newsweek on the Search for Longer Life
End Aging to End Anxiety: Filmmaker Jason Silva Talks about Immortality
Growing New Body Parts: Breakthroughs in Regenerative Medicine