The multibillion-dollar anti-aging business includes a wide range of products, from skin creams to chemical peels. However, scientists still haven’t found a scientifically proven way to live longer. But a group of scientists are getting closer to their goal thanks to a substance called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD+ for short.
David Sinclair, co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School, says that NAD+ is important because it is the closest thing to a “fountain of youth.” He says that NAD+ is an important molecule for life, and that without it, a person would only live for 30 seconds.
What is NAD+?
NAD+ is found in all living cells and plays a key part in controlling how cells age and making sure the whole body works well. Both people and animals’ NAD+ levels go down over time. Researchers have found it interesting that giving older mice more NAD+ not only makes them look and act younger, but also makes them live longer than expected. This is shown by a key study that came out in March 2017 in the journal Science. In the study, Sinclair and his colleagues gave a group of mice a substance that boosts NAD+ in their water.
How NAD+ works?
In just a few hours, the NAD+ levels in these mice went up by a lot. Over the course of about a week, the tissues and muscles of the bigger mice changed so much that it became nearly impossible to tell the difference between the tissues of a 2-year-old mouse and those of a 4-month-old mouse.
Efforts are currently being made to get the same results in people. A randomized control trial, which is considered the gold standard in scientific research and was published in Nature in November 2017 by another research group, found that people who took a daily supplement with NAD+ precursors saw their NAD+ levels rise significantly and for a long time.
The future of anti-aging
Sinclair himself takes a NAD+ pill every day. He talks about personal experiences, such as having less of a hangover, being smarter, and being happier. Even his 78-year-old father has changed in amazing ways. Sinclair jokes, “He used to be like Eeyore, but now he goes on six-day hikes and travels the world.”
Sinclair admits that clear proof of effectiveness is still hard to find, but he wants to be the one to do it. On this quest, he is up against other people. Sinclair is making plans to get his study on NAD+ approved by the strict U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He wants to make a pill that doctors could prescribe or that people could buy over-the-counter. In the meantime, a different business called Elysium is selling a supplement called Basis that has compounds that are known to raise NAD+ levels. (This supplement was looked at in the 2017 Nature study.)
Leonard Guarente, who is the Chief Scientist and Co-Founder of Elysium and also runs the Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at MIT, says that Basis is not trying to make people live longer, but rather to keep them healthy for longer. Eight Nobel laureates are on Elysium’s impressive science advisory board. One board member, Sir Richard Roberts, who won the Nobel Prize in 1993, points out that his elbow skin is better and stays open-minded about the role of Basis.
By marketing Basis as a supplement instead of a drug, Elysium is able to avoid long clinical study and FDA hurdles. Some in the medical field don’t agree with this position, even though it’s supported by well-known scientists. The biggest mystery is why Nobel laureates would support a drug that hasn’t been tested on many people. Elysium didn’t say whether or not people on the advisory board get paid.
Even though Basis is sold in stores, Elysium is currently testing the supplement in hospital settings. Sinclair, Elysium, and others are all doing study to find out if NAD+ has the potential to be the health-improving compound that many people hope for.
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