If there's a magic elixir for keeping us youthful in old age, doctors at the Mayo Clinic may be close to finding it.
"The ideal would be is if people could live to be 90 or 100 but feel like they're 50 or 60," Dr. James Kirkland of the Kogod Center on Aging told KARE.
It sounds impossible. Yet Dr. Kirkland and his Mayo team are working on a solution by targeting particular cells in our bodies.
They're called "senescent cells." Everyone has them and they're at the center of our chronic diseases like cancers, dementia, diabetes, and cardiac diseases.
"They tend to accumulate with increasing age and they are also present at the sites of major chronic diseases," said Dr. Kirkland.
So, they thought, how can we safely get rid of these dysfunctional cells? The answer was Senolytic drugs.
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Dr. Kirkland's team tested mice and discovered that these drugs allowed the senescent cells to "self-destruct" without damaging other healthy cells. In other words, older mice looked younger and became healthier.
"We gave these drugs and we delayed onset of age-related diseases as a group, not just one disease, but all of them. We also delayed onset of frailty," said Dr. Kirkland.
The results of the study have the team at Mayo genuinely excited. The drugs are now being tested in human clinical trials and if it all continues to progress, this could be life-changing in many ways.
"We want to figure out a way where we can go at the root cause of all of these conditions and try to delay them as a group so that the period of health span, that is the period of people's lives when they're independent, living at home, free of pain, free of disability, can be extended," said Dr. Kirkland.
It's exciting research, but for now, plenty of exercise and a diet rich in fruit and vegetables are your best bet for aging well.