Clinical trials of anti-aging supplements may reveal answers to staying healthy in later life, an expert says.
Professor Cynthia Kenyon, an expert on aging, said that while many supplements were readily available and inexpensive, there was a lack of evidence that they worked.
Clinical trials may reveal that a supplement already in circulation holds the secret to slowing the biological aging process and, in turn, age-related diseases such as cancer and dementia.
Prof Kenyon, who works at Google subsidiary Calico Life Sciences and whose research has revolutionized the scientific understanding of aging, said trials of rapamycin and metformin, two antiaging-related supplements, were particularly needed.
Rapamycin was originally developed as an immunosuppressant in organ transplant patients, while metformin is used to control glucose production in patients with type 2 diabetes.
She also called for testing for red wine and other substances found in sperm.
“A clinical trial large enough to be meaningful costs millions of dollars,” Professor Kenyon said. “So there’s no business model for this, because if you want to do a clinical trial with something that’s free and cheap, you can’t recoup the cost of the trial.
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“However, this is an important need for the world, because if they work and make you more resilient, these interventions can not only slow aging, but also counteract age-related diseases.
“So you’re going to make people – if they work – more resilient and more resistant to disease, and they can be sold to everyone, and the poor can get them.”
Knowing which supplements work in humans would be “fantastic for the world,” she added.
Professor Kenyon called on the World Health Organization (WHO), governments, non-profit organizations and philanthropists to come together to begin human trials.
“We don’t know if they work, but you’ll find out,” she said.