Never Say DIE: David Sinclair’s anti-ageing quest

Anti-aging Market is estimated to be worth USD 191.7 Billion Globally by 2019: Transparency Market Research

A pill to reverse the effects of ageing? Australian scientist David Sinclair believes it`s only a few years away – and he`s prepared to use himself as a human guinea pig.

To some, age reversal may seem like the stuff of science fiction. But Dr. David Sinclair, the Co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Molecular Biology of Aging and a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, is working to make it a reality. Sinclair, who was listed among Time Magazine`s 100 Most Influential People of 2014, has already identified a chemical that may reverse the aging process. One day, increasing the levels of that chemical in humans could change the way we live and age.

Today, Sinclair`s work on slowing the ageing process, and even reversing some aspects of it, could lead to the most significant set of medical breakthroughs since the discovery of antibiotics nearly a century ago. At the heart of what motivates him is a deceptively simple notion: if the greatest driver of disease in old age is old age itself, then why not find a cure for ageing, which he describes as being “the greatest problem of our time”.

Sinclair`s statement is borne out by the World Health Organisation`s Global Burden of Disease Project, which estimates that the number of years lost to premature death or compromised by disability in 2010 was 2.5 billion, meaning that about a third of potential human life goes to waste. The toll from crime, wars and genocides does not come close to matching this. Yet, as Sinclair points out, just one per cent of medical research funding is spent on understanding why we age and even less on doing something about it.

His goal is to find the “master control switch” that can regulate the pathways that contribute to ageing itself. “It could be one pill for 20 diseases at once,” says the boyish-looking 46-year-old, who divides his time between Boston`s Harvard Medical School, where he is a professor of genetics, and Sydney, where he heads a lab at University of NSW (UNSW) Medicine. “It would be the most profitable drug ever made.”

Achieving everlasting life has obsessed mankind for millennia. In the Old Testament, Methuselah was said to have lived for 969 years. Herodotus, Alexander the Great and the 16th- century Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León all probed the extremities of the known world in a search of the Fountain of Youth. While no serious scientist is talking immortality, at least one biologist has predicted we will eventually live to 5000 years of age. Sinclair is more modest in his projections: we`ll still be swinging golf balls at 90 and blowing out birthday candles at 120. So far only one person, Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, has passed that milestone, reaching the age of 122 before she died in 1997. Sinclair says his discoveries could make 150 the new threshold.

Extending the generally accepted limits of human life is now being taken seriously by some of the world`s top scientists. Backed by wealthy philanthropists and tech giants such as Google, billions of dollars are being poured into longevity research. Press releases and PowerPoint presentations come laced with terms such as health-span, not lifespan. The elderly, we are told, will become the wellderly. There will be fewer bed-ridden geriatrics taxing our overstretched medical systems.

The ever-growing list of billionaires funding research into longevity includes PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who has set up Breakout Labs, a non-profit organisation that supports early-stage companies, and Oracle founder Larry Ellison, who has donated more than $US430 million ($600 million) to anti-ageing research.

In September 2013, Time magazine asked: “Can Google Solve Death?” after the search giant announced its latest “moonshot”, Calico, short for California Life Company. The company has snared some of the biggest names in the field, including geneticist Cynthia Kenyon, and plans to build a $1.5 billion life-extension research centre in San Francisco. The facility will be run by Art Levinson, Steve Jobs` successor at Apple.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *