The Path to a New Medicine
Today’s Medicine: Stemming the Tide
In the middle of the last century, medical science began to understand the links between metabolism, aging damage, and age-related disease and disability: that the side-effects of metabolic processes ongoingly add to the burden of cellular and molecular damage in our tissues, and that this damage drives the diseases and disabilities of aging. So medicine became focused on developing drugs that would “manage” the so-called “risk factors” for age-related diseases, pushing the body to produce less of the metabolic precursors of some particular kind of cellular or molecular damage in the body. By doing so, these drugs would slow the accumulation of damage in a vulnerable tissue, and thus bend the curve of a particular age-related disease.
Statin drugs, for example, force the body to produce less cholesterol. Indirectly, this reduces the number of cholesterol-bearing particles circulating in your blood – and with fewer cholesterol particles circulating, fewer cholesterol particles become trapped in the artery wall. By this means, statin drugs slow the buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries.
Other drugs force the kidneys to release more water, or block the action of hormones that tighten the arteries, in order to bring down blood pressure. Lower blood pressure reduces the damage that the pounding of the pulse causes to the fine structures of the kidneys, and reduces the risk that a blood vessel will burst in the brain, triggering a stroke. Still other drugs manipulate the way that the body transports and metabolizes blood sugar in order to lower circulating blood sugar levels; lower concentrations of sugar in our blood slow down the formation of the sticky sugar bonds in our tissues that gum up the functioning of the eyes, kidneys, and arteries in diabetics and aging people generally. And so on.
The risk factor-targeting drugs that have come out of this strategy have undeniably been successful in contributing to longer life expectancies, and in delaying the appearance of some of the terrible complications of age-related diseases. But because they rely on forcing metabolism to veer from its preferred course, they necessarily cause side-effects, such as the bleeding risk caused by the anti-clotting properties of aspirin, or the muscle damage caused when statins restrict the production of life-giving metabolites that are generated in the same biochemical pathway as cholesterol. Moreover, while these medicines slow the rate at which particular forms of aging damage accumulate, they are powerless to stop its buildup in our tissues, because that would require completely shutting down the metabolic processes that they target – and those processes are essential to life itself.
Today’s medicine also struggles – both heroically and tragically – with the endgame of these processes. When the burden of decades of cellular and molecular damage has already accumulated to the point where people are suffering outright with the diseases and disabilities of aging, medicine is reduced to crisis management in the emergency room, or a struggle to preserve independence in the geriatrician’s office, or our best efforts to give comfort and dignity in the long-term care facility.
Tomorrow’s Medicine: Repairing the Damage
Scientific developments in the last few decades have laid the foundation for a new class of medicines: rejuvenation biotechnologies. Rejuvenation biotechnologies are targeted therapies that apply the principles of regenerative medicine across the entire scope of the damage of aging. In other words, instead of merely slowing down the accumulation of aging damage in our tissues, rejuvenation biotechnologies will remove, repair, or replace the damaged cellular and molecular machinery. This means that with every round of therapy, a person’s eyes, hearts, arteries, and bones will not just suffer less ongoing degradation of their structures, but will actually become more youthful and healthy in their structure and function, as the fine cellular and molecular order of these and other tissues are progressively restored to their youthful integrity.
Right now, SENS Research Foundation is funding and performing innovative research to develop, promote, and ensure widespread access to these rejuvenation biotechnologies. Through our own direct research efforts, our training up of young scientists in this new approach, and dissemination of the first shoots of rejuvenation research in health research institutes and biotech, we are accelerating the transition of medical science from risk factor management to regenerative medicine-based solutions to the diseases and disabilities of aging. Through the development of these new medicines, we will reimagine aging, opening up lives of vigor and health set free from the gravitational pull of time.