Here's one of life's paradoxes - everyone wants to live forever but nobody wants to get old! What to do, what to do? Of course - an anti-ageing pill! It's what everyone has been looking for - a pill that can "slow down ageing", surely one of the holy grails of science.
So the announcement that scientists at the Institute for Ageing Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine want to undertake trials of the diabetes drug metformin for its effects
on what are described as age-related diseases is extremely interesting. Apparently, in a 2014 study, scientists at Cardiff University found that type-2 diabetes patients treated with the drug lived on average 15% longer than a comparable, healthy group who didn't suffer from diabetes. Three of the main risks to health in a longer-lived population are heart disease, cancer and mental deterioration, and the incidence of all these was reduced within the subjects of the trial.
The new study has been proposed by Institute for Ageing Research director Nir Barzilai and has been named "Targeting Aging with Metformin" (TAME), however funding has not yet been established. If it is given the go-ahead at a meeting of the scientists with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the intention is that the study will last for seven years and will involve up to 3,000 subjects aged between 70-80 at up to 15 centres round the USA. Over the seven year period the researchers will see if there is a genuine reduction in these three diseases. The subjects will be people who already have, or are at risk of, these three diseases and the researchers will be looking at whether or not the medication "forestalls the illnesses they do not already have, as well as diabetes and death."
After all, according to Barzilai, current treatments for diseases related to ageing “just exchange one disease for another”. That is because people treated for one age-related disease often go on to die from another relatively soon thereafter. “What we want to show is that if we delay ageing, that’s the best way to delay disease.”
Interestingly, scientists are not able to say with certainty exactly what ageing is. They observe physical changes in the body at macro- and micro-scopic level but are not yet able to establish what causes these changes. So the aim of the metformin regime is to ward off these age-related diseases in order to increase what they call "healthspan" (the healthy period of a person's life), and presumably prevent people from dying prematurely from these diseases.
And going back to the paradox mentioned at the start? Will all these longer-lived people follow the same route of letting their bodies deteriorate and lose functionality? No, of course they won't because they'll all be making the effort as prescribed by Silver Grey Sports Club to stay fit and strong in order to enjoy all the extra time they have on this planet, won't they?