Although modern medicine does not recognize aging as a treatable condition, many modern health experts and anti-aging experts firmly disagree. William Faloon, Co-Founder and Director of Life Extension Foundation, believes that a long life can be achieved by taking appropriate steps, and that aging can be reversed.
“We’ve moved far beyond the phase of wishful thinking as it relates to gaining control over pathological aging processes,” says Faloon, who has famously been dubbed the “Forever Man” by Popular Science magazine.
Aging at its root is simply the accumulation of molecular damage. “It’s merely the accidental result of an intended program (quasi-program) that was the continuation of the essential growth program,” says Alan S. Green, M.D.
In contrast, modern medicine focuses on prescribing pills for age-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s rather than dealing with the root cause of all of these disorders.
“Perhaps one reason why anti-aging treatment by physicians has not materialized is we live in parallel universes. Different groups have their own reality,” writes Alan S. Green, M.D. in a paper titled mTOR, glycotoxins and the parallel universe.
Nonetheless, there is a revolution underway against aging and death. Every year, scientists, activists, entrepreneurs, life hackers, and thought leaders in the anti-aging space get together to sip from the fountain of youth. Last year, experts at RAAD Festival focused on a 5-step protocol that can tangibly extend health for a long life.
The 5 steps (protocols) for a long life are:
- Get the right tests
- Boost your AMPK
- Repair cellular DNA
- Zap “zombie” cells
- Rejuvenate with plasma or stem cells
In my ebook, Biohackers Manual: A 5 Step Protocol For A Long Life, you can read about how to implement these five protocols in greater detail. Below is a short summary of each of the five protocols for age control and a longer life:
Step 1: Get Tested To Properly Prepare For Forever
If you intend on living a long and healthy life, you’re probably already optimizing your diet, moving, and have a sense of the basic biomarkers of chronic disease like your blood pressure, glucose, lipids, hormones, body weight, and nutrient status. You might even be taking supplements to ensure your body is working optimally.
From a functional medicine point of view, however, taking supplements or following a regimen without first getting the proper tests is like throwing semi-cooked spaghetti on the wall and hoping something sticks. Tests are akin to “personal report cards” and are critical, if you want to assess what degree of age reversal is actually occurring.
Like biohacker and Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey says in his latest book Game Changers, if you want to hack your biology, you’ve got to track it. There are a slew of aging biomarkers to consider. So, if you want to stay healthy longer, hire a coach who can help you biohack yourself and pay for a thorough test panel.
Step 2: Inhibit mTOR and Induce Autophagy With AMPK Nutrients
“The first step to age reversal is to boost AMPK activity via several validated methods,” advises Faloon, who has been pursuing immortality for decades.
Start by informing yourself on this important enzyme by reading this article on HoneyColony. In brief, AMPK, short for adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase, is an important fuel-sensing enzyme that plays a key role in stimulating energy processes like fatty acid oxidation and glucose uptake. When the energy in cells decrease, they can break down; this ultimately can cause cellular fatigue or allow harmful free radicals to cross your cell membranes.
The goal of increasing AMPK is to indirectly suppress mTOR, which stands for “mechanistic target of rapamycin,” which regulates protein synthesis in your body.
mTOR functions help regulate cell growth, cell proliferation, cell motility, cell survival, and protein synthesis. mTOR also inhibits autophagy. Autophagy, which literally means “self-eating”, is the removal of accumulated waste from inside of old cells. It is an important step in restoring cellular functionality.
mTOR is a big deal. As it relates to combating aging, achieving optimal mTOR activation status is a critical factor, writes Joe Cohen of SelfHacked.
Cell culture and animal data suggest that the sensitivity of key energy regulators is lost with age. This causes some pathways to become hyperactive, whereas others are underactive.
“In summary, the problem for the old animal is mTOR is at too high a level after growth and development has stopped,” says Green. If the body no longer needs to grow in size to mature, but mTOR activity remains elevated, cancer can start to grow. Lowering the mTOR signal has indeed been shown to reduce cancer.
Much of the knowledge about mTORC function comes from the use of rapamycin, a bacterial macrolide produced by Streptomyces Hygroscopicus bacteria. The drug rapamycin directly turns downs mTOR function, inducing autophagy, improving bone marrow (immune) function, decreasing excess cell propagation, metabolizing cellular fat stores, and suppressing toxic senescent cell secretions, which I’ll explain a bit later.
“Rapamycin is demonstrating significant age-delaying effects in older animals,” writes Faloon in Life Extension. “Differing doses of rapamycin are being studied in humans to assess if a once-per-week dosing can provide benefits without the immunosuppression that occurs when rapamycin is taken daily.”
Anti-aging experts have identified standardized doses shown to activate AMPK.
Another pill being used to combat degenerative aging processes is Metformin, the most frequently used antidiabetic drug in the world. The most studied mechanism of metformin’s action is its ability to boost AMPK activity.
Life Extensionists and biohackers cycle between suppressing mTOR via calorie restriction and/or high-dose AMPK activators, and then eating balanced protein-rich diets. This enables mTOR to rebuild muscle mass while suppressing the undesirable impact of pathological mTOR activation.
Now, if you are already sufficiently inhibiting mTOR with metformin and/or nutrients like gynostemia leaf extract and hesperidin, you may not need to take rapamycin. Talk to a functional medicine doctor. Side effects like immunosuppression can be dangerous.
Step 3: Repair Cellular DNA By Boosting NAD+
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) is a coenzyme essential for cell function and systemic life sustenance. HoneyColony recently highlighted the benefits of NAD+ and started selling Tru Niagen, which has received three safety notifications from the FDA.
Methods that remove senescent cells (old cells that refuse to die) or that remove toxic debris from inside the cell via autophagy will be of little benefit if there is insufficient NAD+ to enable continual youthful metabolic activity. Unfortunately, NAD+ declines with age to the point that by the time humans reach 80 years of age they may have only 4 percent of the NAD+ levels they had at age 21. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that 80 years old is the average human lifespan in modern societies.
Unresolved DNA damage in our cells is one of the main drivers of aging. Boosting the chemical NAD+ in the body activates a particular protein that removes that damage. Mice treated with a drug to boost NAD+ got fitter, showing increased muscle tone and blood flow.
Anti-aging experts state that if you are looking to delay or reverse certain aspects of aging you should consider taking steps to boost cellular NAD+ levels.
Supplements, says Faloon, are said to work better if you first boost your NAD+levels via intravenous infusions, which are both pricey and time-consuming.
The capsules work to boost NAD+, but when you get to a certain age, you need NAD+ itself infused or absorbed into your body and then you need to maintain those levels with precursors.
Patches that enable the body to gradually absorb NAD+ will soon be available to the public. For now, Tru Niagen is the most reputable and affordable option if you are looking for a supplement.
Step 4: Eliminate Zombie-like Senescent Cells From Your Body
Once you’ve lowered mTor signaling and restored healthy levels of NAD+, the logical next step in a sequence of regenerative therapies is to purge the body of “toxic” senescent cells, according to anti-aging experts.
As cells reach the end of their life cycle or become severely damaged, most self-destruct via a normal process known as apoptosis. Some cells fail to undergo this beneficial self-elimination process. They instead linger in a dysfunctional zombie-like state where they impede organ function, emit damaging inflammatory signals, and thus shorten healthy lifespan.
According to studies, these senescent cells often spread throughout tissues and inflict damage. Like a contagion, senescent cells seem to pass on their accelerated aging abilities to healthy cells by releasing a number of factors that can cause muscles to deteriorate.
Laura Niedernhofer, Director of the Institute on the Biology of Aging and Metabolism (iBAM), likens senescent cells to that bad strawberry in the punnet, rotting everything around it.
Among the excretions are substances that produce inflammation (metalloproteinases), which if sustained, is one of the major drivers of practically every important age-related disease. This can result in organ failure and degenerative disorders. These rogue cells must be eliminated from the body in order to fight aging.
Fighting Zombie Cells And Defying Aging
While aging starts in our cells, it is possible to reverse the damage. Senolytics offer one promising option.
“We’ve always thought of aging as a process, not a disease,” says Dr. Robbins, Associate Director of iBAM (Institute on the Biology of Aging and Metabolism). “But what if we can influence the impacts of aging at a cellular level to promote healthy aging? That’s what senolytics seeks to achieve.”
Treatment with senolytic drugs, which work to eliminate senescent cells, can reverse physical dysfunction and actually extend lifespan even when used in aged animal models.
The field of experimental therapeutics as it relates to senescence is a nascent yet promising area of investigation. In fact, millions of dollars are being raised in search of therapies, and to date about a dozen drugs have been reported that can mop up zombie cells.
“Besides small molecules that target senescent cells, a potentially promising and straightforward bio-therapeutic approach would be to activate or reinforce the immune response against senescent cells,” says Aubrey de Grey, Chief Science Officer, SENS Research Foundation.
“We are now in the midst of chapter one,” adds Unity co-founder and president Nathaniel David.
And chapter one concludes with the successful demonstration in human beings that the elimination of senescent cells takes a feature of ageing that was untreatable and incurable, and makes it a treatable medical condition.
Recent studies reveal that just a few senescent cells transplanted into young mice result in persistent physical decline characteristic of pathological aging. Mice given senolytic compounds lived 36 percent longer than animals with senescent cell transplants that were not given the drugs.
Dasatinib and quercetin, as well as other plant compounds like fisetin, have demonstrated potent senolytic and subsequent age reversal properties when used together in appropriate doses. Metformin, mentioned earlier, also works to inhibit senescent cells’ nasty secretions.
According to Life Extension, rodent studies have illustrated that senolytics comprised of the drug dasatinib and the antioxidant quercetin:
- Improved frailty symptoms
- Enhanced coat color appearance
- Reduced urinary incontinence
- Decreased osteoporosis
- Increased exercise endurance
- Improved kidney liver pathologic age scores
- Extended healthy lifespan
Step 5: A Long Life: Systemic Rejuvenation With Stem Cells
One of the most exciting treatments from an anti-aging perspective are the use of blood products and stem cells. There are three different types of stem cells: adult stem cells (ASC), induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and embryonic (or pluripotent) stem cells.
ASCs are undifferentiated cells found living within specific differentiated tissues in our bodies that can renew themselves or generate new cells in order to replenish dead or damaged tissue.
“We are still in the infancy of research but are showing great results in longevity of the joints as well as aging,” says board-certified podiatrist Dr. Charlton Woodly of Woodly Foot & Ankle who uses ASCS to treat a variety of foot and ankle ailments. “Adults’ stem cells can speed up the healing process for common conditions such as plantar fasciitis, arthritis, damaged joints, and tendonitis. It also offers people an alternative to painful and costly surgery.”
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which are another type of ACS, are found in bone marrow and help regulate the immune system, quelch inflammation, and also stimulate regeneration. However, it’s quite expensive.
Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs) are derived from the inner cell mass of an embryo that has been fertilized in vitro and donated for research purposes following informed consent.
University of Nebraska Medical Center explains:
These pluripotent stem cells have the potential to become almost any cell type and are only found during the first stages of development. Scientists hope to understand how these cells differentiate during development. As we begin to understand these developmental processes we may be able to apply them to stem cells grown in vitro and potentially regrow cells such as nerve, skin, intestine, liver, etc for transplantation.
Using stem cells is expensive and also will be less effective if the patient is already fighting off a blood disease or cancer. If this is the case, they may not have a lot of stem cells to begin with. However, this is still a good option as a first step as opposed to a surgical transplant.
For more listen to Faloon of LifeExtension.
For more information and a detailed account of these 5 protocols for a healthy and long life, be sure to check out my ebook, Biohackers Manual: A 5 Step Protocol For A Long Life.
Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist, functional medicine consultant, and founder and editor-in-chief of HoneyColony. She is also the director of the award-winning documentary film Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by Ellen Page. You can follow her on Twitter @maryamhenein.