Possible sequence of arrival for meaningful antiaging therapies
The full rejuvenation toolkit of the next few decades will consist of a range of different treatments, each targeting a different type of damage. Fightaging predicts the likely order of arrival of some of these therapies, based on what is presently going on in research, funding, and for-profit development.
1) Clearance of Senescent Cells
Everon Biosciences, Oisin Biotechnologies, SIWA Therapeutics, and UNITY Biotechnology are all forging ahead with various different approaches to the selective destruction of senescent cells. No doubt many groups within established Big Pharma entities are also taking a stab at this, more quietly, and with less press attention. UNITY Biotechnology has raised more than $100 million to date, demonstrating that there is broad enthusiasm for this approach to the treatment of aging and age-related disease
Researchers have established that senescent cells exist in the immune system, and may be important in immune aging. Similarly, the immune cells involved in the progression of atherosclerosis are also senescent, and removing them slows the progression of that condition. Other research has shown that removing senescent cells from the lungs restores lost tissue elasticity and improves lung function. Beyond these specific details, senescent cells clearly contribute to chronic inflammation in aging, and that drives the progression of near all common age-related conditions. The less inflammation the better.
2) Immune System Destruction and Restoration
At the present time it is a challenge to pick second place. A number of fields are all equally close to realization.
The destruction and recreation of the immune system wins out because it is already possible, already demonstrated to be successful, and just missing one component part that would enable it to be used by ordinary, healthy, older people. At present researchers and clinicians use chemotherapy to destroy immune cells and the stem cells that create them.
Repopulation of the immune system is carried out via cell transplants that are by now a safe and proven application of stem cell medicine, little different from the many varieties of first generation stem cell therapy. This approach has been used to cure people with multiple sclerosis, and has been attempted with varying degrees of success for a number of other autoimmune conditions for going on fifteen years now: there are researchers with a lot of experience in this type of therapy.
The catch here is that chemotherapy is a damaging experience. The cost of undergoing it is high, both immediately, and in terms of negative impact on later health and life expectancy, similar to that resulting from a life spent smoking. It only makes sense for people who are otherwise on their way to an early death or disability, as is the case for multiple sclerosis patients.
However, there are a number of approaches very close to practical realization that will make chemotherapy obsolete for the selective destruction of immune cells and stem cells - approaches with minimal or no side-effects. A combined approach targeting c-kit and CD47 was demonstrated earlier this year, for example. Sophisticated cell targeting systems such as the gene therapy approach developed for senescent cell clearance by Oisin Biotechnologies could also be turned to stem cell or immune cell destruction, given suitable markers of cell chemistry. There are quite a few of these, any one of which would be good enough.
3) Clearance of the First Few Types of Amyloid
4) Clearance of Glucosepane Cross-Links
5) Thymic Rejuvenation to Increase the Supply of Immune Cells: About two years to a treatment.
6) Mitochondrial Repair: Seems likely by 2020.
7) A Robust Cure for Cancer:
Telomere lengthening occurs through the activity of telomerase or the less well understood alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) mechanisms: these two are a small set of targets for modern medicine, and researchers are working on the challenge. If telomerase and ALT can both be blocked, temporarily and either globally throughout the body or selectively in cancerous tissue, then cancer will wither and become controllable. This seems doable in the 2020s
8) Reversing Stem Cell Aging: At the present time this seems like a long-term prospect, despite the high levels of funding for this line of medical research and development.
9) Clearance of Other Amyloids, Aggregates, and Sundry Lysosomal Garbage