From serums to plastic surgery to antioxidants, humans are continually trying to delay the inevitable aging process. Now researchers claim they may be one step closer to an anti-aging pill – and it all comes down to one little protein molecule. According to the team, a pill that limits the protein GSK-3 could increase the human lifespan by seven to ten years.
GSK-3 could be responsible for limiting the human lifespan, but a a new study details a method that could “turn off” the protein. Researchers used lithium to inhibit GSK-3 in fruit flies and found that the lifespan of the insects increased by 16 percent.
Lithium is already used to treat bipolar disorder, but comes with side effects like dizziness, vomiting, and tremors. More research is needed to determine if it would be the best treatment for humans, but if a pill inhibiting GSK-3 is eventually released, Jorge Ivan Castillo-Quan says it could increase lifespan by seven to ten years.
With conversations around increased lifespan come controversy, so Castillo-Quan focused on extending how long we are healthy rather than how long we live. He said a thorough understanding of GSK-3 could help us delay diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Castillo-Quan said, “For example if this drug could delay Alzheimer’s from the age of 75 to the age of 90 that would be extremely good. We don’t necessarily want to live to 110 or 120 but we want to live healthier for longer.” He envisions GSK-3 treatment as a therapy introduced in the middle years of a person’s life.
Still, he says it could be decades before an anti-aging pill targeting GSK-3 appears on the market. For now, researchers are headed back into the lab to study mice. Afterwards they plan to research GSK-3 in primates and humans.
Image via Tom Varco