The average person’s lifespan could be expanded, and their overall health improved into old age with two drugs that are already available. These are the findings of a new study carried out by a team consisting of members from both the Mayo Clinic and the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
As part of the ageing process, more cells start to release toxic chemicals, which in turn leads to many of the most common age-related diseases. These include dementia, osteoporosis and arthritis and can have a big impact on quality of later life.
There are already two drugs on the market that kill those cells, the scientists found, which could improve physical function and endurance. A chemotherapy drug and a plant supplement could be the answer to boosting walking speeds and upping food intake.
One of the main benefits of these treatments is that they would tackle a number of age-related conditions simultaneously. Previous approaches have always treated individual issues, leading to vast quantities of tablets and potential dangers with medicines interacting with each other.
Dr Felipe Sierra, director of the NIA's Division of Aging Biology, spoke to The Mail Online. He said: “I think that this research is very exciting. Rather than eradicate each disease individually, if you address ageing, you get rid of all the diseases and not just one.”
As a person grows, cells normally divide to create new ones and replace those cells that have become damaged over time. Senescent cells, however, don’t function in the same way. Instead, they are unable to divide, they don’t die, and they emit chemicals, thus destroying other cells.
Part of the ageing process sees the number of senescent cells increase, promoting tissue damage, inflammation and age-related diseases. It is these cells that also age cancer survivors prematurely.
For the experiment, the researchers combined the chemotherapy drug dasatinib with the plant pigment quercetin. It found that using the two medications together had a positive impact on many age-related symptoms, making it an interesting breakthrough.
More research will need to be carried out to understand the full potential of the drugs, but it could be a step forward in treating age-related disease. As the UK’s population continues to age overall, it is an increasingly pressing issue.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that in 2016 the proportion of over-65s stood at 18 per cent. Of these, 2.4 per cent were aged 85 or even older. To ensure that people living to such ages are as comfortable and active as possible, the impact of common diseases that affect the elderly must be minimised.