Can we reverse the clock on our biological age?

The earliest thinkers and researchers have always dreamed about the possibility of eternal youth. A recent study involving a peculiar drug cocktail suggests that it may be possible to reverse your biological clock.

People are always aging: From infancy to adolescence, and adolescence to adulthood, cells follow an all-too-predictable order of impermanence, which characterizes the way we live our lives, and organize our societies. However, in a small trial at the University of California, scientists uncovered the first hint that a certain cocktail of drugs can alter people’s biological age by rejuvenating the body’s epigenetic clock: an age predictor based on DNA methylation levels. In short, this was accomplished by giving participants a growth hormone to stimulate regeneration of the thymus, a gland located in the chest (between the lungs and breastbone), that is integral for proper immune functioning. Over one’s life, this gland typically degenerates, which leaves individuals increasingly vulnerable to infections and cancers.

Reversing the clock

The small trial’s findings were described by geneticist and study conductor Steve Horvath as “futuristic,” as the effect was initially imagined to “slow down the clock, rather than reverse it.” This study operates along the same vein as the anti-aging hypothesis proposed by David Sinclair, a geneticist and renowned longevity researcher at Harvard University, who advocates for the use of resveratrol among other compounds to target and reverse various mechanisms of aging. While both researchers have uncovered revolutionary findings regarding the potential of reversing the biological clock, more controlled studies with larger sample sizes are required to validate these claims.

Increasing human health spans

As our societies become more developed, sophisticated, and apt to manage health troubles—both acute and chronic—a new challenge is emerging amongst longer-living populations: How does one increase their “health span,” or the years of life where an individual can live with energy, free of physical ailments and chronic disease? While targeted on reversing biological age, Horvath’s study also encourages continued dialogue around how exactly individuals, businesses, and health systems can work together to design intelligent health plans that seek to prevent physiological degeneration—from day one. What if healthcare systems worked to both prevent and reverse biological aging—what would be the social, economic and political implications of a forever young population?