Scientists have made a major breakthrough in fighting the aging process, treating cancer, and chronic illness, as well as protecting us during future space travel; and the drug could be on the market within five years.
“This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that’s perhaps only three to five years away from being on the market if the trials go well,” lead scientist Professor David Sinclair, of the Harvard Medical School said of the research, as cited by Sky News.
DNA damage is a key contributor to the aging process, the onset of cancer, and various degenerative diseases, and is also one of the major side effects of radiation exposure.
The research centers around the chemical compound nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) which is critical to repairing our DNA throughout our lives.
Researchers put drops of NAD+ into the water supply of a test group of mice and, within hours, their NAD+ levels began to rise. In just one week, muscle tissue samples taken from the older mice in the group were virtually indistinguishable from the younger mice and showed significant improvements in overall DNA repair.
“We can’t tell the difference between the tissues from an old mouse that is two years old versus a young mouse that is three to four months old,” Sinclair said, as cited by Time.
What Sinclair and his team did next was formulate a capsule form of the NAD+ precursor nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) which occurs naturally in very small amounts in foods such as broccoli, cucumber, avocado, and edamame beans.
NMN is crucial for NAD+ to do its reconstruction work on our DNA, and the early tests have been so positive that Sinclair and his team are hoping to begin clinical trials with 25 people within the next six months at Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston.
The potential applications for the drug, if it proves effective, extend beyond our own world and into space.
Professor Sinclair and Dr. Lindsay Wu of UNSW were the winners of NASA’s iTech competition in December 2016 for their life-extension and DNA restoration research. NMN could help fend off the damaging effects of cosmic radiation exposure which would be hugely beneficial for long-term space flights to Mars, for example.
“We came in with a solution for a biological problem and it won the competition out of 300 entries,” Dr. Wu says.