Researchers from Harvard and MIT have identified at least six chemical compounds that can reverse key signs of aging in cells, according to a peer-reviewed research paper published in the journal Aging. The findings may lead to advancements in the tech billionaire-backed field of longevity, which aims to extend the human life span.
The “chemical cocktails” were found to restore youthful properties to cells after just four days of treatment. “Until recently, the best we could do was slow aging,” lead author Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School said in a press release, “New discoveries suggest we can now reverse it.”
At least theoretically, the methods would not just slow aging, but make you younger. Sinclair noted that preparations are already underway for human clinical trials of “age reversal gene therapy.”
Preparations for human clinical trials of our first age reversal gene therapy are ongoing @lifebiosciences 9/17
— David Sinclair (@davidasinclair) July 12, 2023
To identify the chemicals, the Harvard team screened molecules with known impacts on cells, testing their effects on aging biomarkers. They ultimately identified six compounds, used in combinations, that reverted cell samples to more youthful states within days.
Unlike risky gene therapies, these chemicals act via epigenetics—controlling gene expression without altering DNA sequences. The cocktails reprogrammed cells into immature stem cells capable of transforming into any tissue.
While the study was limited to cell cultures, tests in mice and monkeys have also shown encouraging results so far.
This is just one of the latest developments in a field that has received a growing interest from tech billionaires. Sam Altman, CEO of AI firm OpenAI, recently invested $180 million into stealth startup Retro Biosciences. The company wants to add a decade to human life spans by 2030.
Others diving into the space include Altos Labs, launched in 2021 with reported $3 billion in backing, and NewLimit, funded by $250 million from Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong.
Some wealthy entrepreneurs like Bryan Johnson are experimenting on themselves already. The tech millionaire follows an open-sourced intense anti-aging regimen, including briefly injecting his son’s blood to taking over 100 pills per day. Johnson claims he has slowed his biological aging by over 30 years.
Sinclair notes that preparing treatments suitable for human testing will still take time. However, he expressed confidence in the approach. “Aging reversal can be achieved, not only by genetic means, but also chemical,” Sinclair concluded.
The potential to extend lifespans significantly may meet resistance. But if treatments can postpone age-related disease and improve health in old age, they could also reduce often crippling medical costs. These visionary scientists see a future where 100 could become the new 60.