Harvard and MIT researchers 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 could lead to advances in the field of longevity backed by tech billionaires, which aims to extend human lifespan.
The "chemical cocktails" have been found to restore the youthful properties of cells after just four days of treatment. "Until recently, the best we could do was to slow aging," lead author Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School said in a press release. "New findings suggest we can now reverse it."
At least theoretically, the methods would not only slow aging, but make you look younger. Sinclair noted that preparations are already underway for human clinical trials of "age reversal gene therapy."
To identify the chemicals, the Harvard team screened molecules with known impacts on cells, testing their effects on biomarkers of aging. They ultimately identified six compounds, used in combination, that returned cell samples to younger states within days.
Unlike risky gene therapies, these chemicals act via epigenetics, controlling gene expression without altering DNA sequences. The cocktails reprogrammed the 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.
Chemical cocktails can rejuvenate and reverse the age of senescent human skin cells by restoring compartmentalization of red fluorescent protein in the nucleus. Image: Harvard University
It's just one of the latest developments in a field that is attracting growing interest from tech billionaires. Sam Altman, CEO of artificial intelligence company OpenAI, recently invested $180 million in stealth startup Retro Biosciences. The company wants to add a decade to the human lifespan by 2030.
Others diving into the space include Altos Labs, launched in 2021 with $3 billion in backing, and NewLimit, funded by $250 million from Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong.
Some wealthy entrepreneurs like Bryan Johnson are already experimenting on themselves. The tech millionaire follows an intense open-source anti-aging regimen, including briefly injecting his son's blood to take more than 100 pills a day. Johnson claims it slowed his biological aging by more than 30 years.
Sinclair notes that preparing treatments suitable for human testing will still take time. However, he expressed confidence in the approach. "The reversal of aging can be achieved, not only by genetic means, but also chemically," Sinclair concluded.
The potential to dramatically extend life may be met with resistance. But if treatments can delay age-related illnesses and improve the health of older people, they could also reduce often crippling medical costs. These visionary scientists see a future where 100 could become the new 60.