It’s been over a year since we published the KIS Research Paper on Human Longevity, and now feels like the opportune time to update readers on what they may have missed. With each passing day we grow more excited about the prospects offered by this burgeoning field. Here’s what’s piquing our interest:
- He Jiankui and the team at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen have used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool to edit the embryos of twin girls (watch the announcement here). This marks the first germ-line edit of a human genome, meaning that any changes to the genome will be passed on from one generation to the next. According to the team, the experiment successfully eliminated the CCR5 gene that is related to HIV, smallpox and cholera. This has understandably been met with concern from the broader scientific community. MIT reports that Jiankui plans to continue experiments on mice, monkeys, and more than 300 human embryos!
- Researchers at UC San Diego have successfully used bioprinting techniques to repair sections of mice spinal cords. The team used a bio-printed softgel structure filled with neural stem cells to complete damaged gaps in the spinal cord, restoring some movement to the animals’ hind legs! This is an important development in the pursuit of applying bio-printing technologies to human subjects.
- Unity Biotechnology (NASDAQ: UBX) and resTORbio (NASDAQ: TORC) have entered clinical trial phase to test the effectiveness of certain senolytic drugs. These drugs target what is believed to be one of the root causes of ageing – senescent cells. resTORbio is also conducting clinical trials to test the application of Rapamycin in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
- CRISPR-Cas9 has also been wielded by researchers at UC San Francisco in an attempt to create pluripotent stem cells that can’t be detected by the immune system. This would eradicate the need for the use of immunosuppressant drugs that can make patients more susceptible to infection and cancer.
- Ronald Crystal and the team at Weill Cornell Medicine will soon begin trialling the use of gene therapy to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is known to be associated with the APOE gene variants, with APOE4 increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s and APOE2 decreasing the risk. The study will use a viral vector carrying the APOE2 gene inserted into the patient’s spinal fluid to counteract the effect of the APOE4 gene.
- Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have increased the lifespan of mice by 10-15% by injecting stem cells into the hypothalamus region of the brain. Interestingly, when injecting toxins into the hypothalamus of healthy mice the process worked in reverse, hastening the onset of age-related phenotypes. According to 13D, over 30 new anti-ageing therapies that slow down or reverse ageing in animals have been developed and are progressing to clinical trial stage.
Each of these leaps and bounds made by the scientific community put us one step closer to significantly extending human longevity. According to American futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil, ‘it’s likely just another 10 to 12 years before the general public will hit longevity escape velocity’. The times certainly are changing.