“Growing Old Without Disease” or the Path to Immortality

Not long ago an article was published in The Wall Street Journal on recent attempts against ageing or rather – diseases related to ageing. Many diseases are developing during the later stages of our lives as a result or a cause for the ageing processes taking place in our bodies. Some of them cripple us for years in slow and painful struggle, others striking hard and out of the blue. The outcome is either way the same – the individual cannot enjoy calmly the last years of their life and often also becomes a sort of the burden for the family and the health-care system. Is there a way to prevent these diseases from developing, instead of finding ways to detect and cure them once they are already there? Sounds like a valid approach to me, but there is always a rather legit contra-argument – what do we die from then, if not diseases? What will make old age happen and what will prevent us from rapidly overpopulating the Earth with aged population incapable of working? While these are more philosophical questions, I believe that if we can find a “prevention” for old age we are obliged to search for it.

The mentioned article deals with a proposal of American scientists to set up a clinical trial for a drug, which originally has been approved to be used as a Type 2 diabetes drug, against other diseases, based on it’s side effects (it’s main effect it the suppression of sugar production in the liver). Now this is on it’s own an interesting statement as this drug (metformin) has been used for many of decades as an approved drug and it’s cost is surprisingly low (less than 10$ in many American drug stores). So what are the chances of something that has been around for as long as 60 years and is so cheap, to be the answer to our prayers in preventing the onset of conditions as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, neurodegenerative diseases and simply put “ageing”? And while it all sounds good, the little disturbing part is that we wouldn’t know really the mechanism in which this drug would prevent these diseases from earlier onset. And while positive results from such medical trial will give immediate hope to people currently threatened or already affected by the mentioned conditions, it will take us a very long time figuring out if we’re not using an unknown evil to fight little known enemies. Using the metformin as a general antagonist of the age-related decrease of certain enzymes and growth-regulators sounds a bit too good to fly without nasty surprises – after all high energy levels and out of control cell growth are the fastest highways to many types of cancer.

So, as hopeful as I am that this trial will turn out successful, I still believe that even if we win some time with surprise-“magic”-drugs as the metformin, we ought to carry out a thorough research on how drugs (known or not) end up curing diseases, in order to escape death traps we set for ourselves or the future generations.

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