Geron's (NASDAQ: GERN) Fountain of Youth in a Pill
Could TA-65 Reverse Old Age?
Every morning when my feet hit the floor, I'm hit with the cold, hard truth from the cleat of reality.
After a good night's sleep, my body squeaks invariably and groans a bit like the Tin Man without his oil can.
Hunched over and achy, it takes me a while to get me going... Working out the kinks reminds me why old folks tend to be a bit on the grumpy side.
After all, they don't call them your “glory days” for nothing.
When they are gone, they are gone for good.
To make matters worse, I know that at just 47, I'm something of a youngster on the oldster scale.
That means the daily contorted limp to the bathroom is one that I might as well get used to.
“It's all downhill from here, kid,” my Pops is quick to remind me. The bright side, he says, is that I'll be getting my AARP card any day now.
This amuses him to no end... Misery, I guess, loves company.
It happens to each and everyone one us. The gray hairs start to show up in the strangest of places...
In fact the one that grows on my ear turns out to be one of the funniest things my kids have ever seen. Growing at what seems to be an inch a day, it keeps them in stitches nearly every time they look at it.
As for me? Not so much...
Of mice and men: The search goes on
So when I come across the words fountain of youth, I'm ready to take a long, hard drink.
Not unlike the Spaniards 500 years before me, I'm willing to search every river, brook, lagoon, or pool in an attempt to reverse the irreversible.
Admittedly, it is something of a fool's errand... Sort of like trying to find the cool, laidback girl back in the day, the fountain is a cruel myth.
But that hasn't stopped scientists from digging for a biological cure that works as well as the fountain. Because let's face it; if discovered, it would be one of the biggest blockbusters drugs of all time — second only to a cure for cancer.
In fact earlier this week, scientists from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston actually managed to do it.
They reversed the aging process, albeit only in mice...
"These mice were equivalent to 80-year-old humans and were about to pass away," said Ronald DePinho, co-author of the paper published online in the journal Nature. After the experiment, "they were the physiological equivalent of young adults."
Key to the results was an enzyme known as telomerase, which exists as part of our cellular biology. Telomerase enzymes are sequences of nucleic acids extending from the ends of our chromosomes that act to maintain their integrity.
The problem is that as our cells continue to divide, their telomeres shorten — prompting them to stop dividing and die. These cells become senescent, leading to the eventual degeneration that is the hallmark of “growing old.” And this process begins at the ripe old age of 25.
But DePinho and his colleagues have become the first to show it is possible to stop these telomeres from shrinking. What's more, using the telomerase compound, they even managed to reverse the process — finding a biological "fountain of youth."
"What really caught us by surprise was the dramatic reversal of the effects we saw in these animals," says DePinho. He describes the outcome as "a near 'Ponce de Leon' effect."
In other words, protecting those chromosome tips doesn't just prevent old age...
It can reverse it.
The fountain of youth — in a pill?
That's what 67-year-old Larry Simpson claims he has been experiencing for the last 18 months.
Using a product called TA-65, Simpson recently told CBS News in Los Angeles he has benefited from improved muscle and joint comfort, more hair, better vision, better skin, and even “a brighter outlook on life."
Meanwhile, his doctor Edward Park reports testing shows Simpson's reading and vision have improved. Additionally, according to Park, Simpson's lung capacity has gone up about a liter — an improvement comparable to 20-year rollback in age.
(You can watch Simpson's full interview here.)
Discovered in 2001 by Geron Corporation (NASDAQ: GERN), TA-65 boosts telomerase production enabling them to grow a little longer, similar to the way it worked in the mice.
Derived from the Chinese herb astragalus, a recent study published by Geron and its research partners showed that TA-65 activates telomerase in the human body, one of the barriers that could arrest or reverse the aging process.
But as good as that sounds, there is one big downside...
There is belief among scientists that these longer telomeres could also encourage cancers to grow in the body — a conclusion based in part on the observation that approximately 90% of human malignant tumors show the abnormal expression of telomerase compared with normal tissues.
In fact Geron scientists believe understanding how to control telomerase is likely essential to fighting many types of cancer. That's why Geron is also working with telomerase inhibitors — substances that keep telomeres from being lengthened — for use as a possible cancer treatment.
In short, this is one area in which considerable additional research needs to happen before any of these products gains widespread acceptance or use.
In the meantime, here's something I've always known: exercise, diet, and reduced stress are the real keys to aging gracefully.
A study published in the September 2008 edition of Lancet Oncology shows that a healthy lifestyle actually increases telomerase levels, which are beneficial in controlling the aging process.
Conducted by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, the famed biochemist who discovered telomerase, the study showed that men who improved their diet, exercised moderately, and reduced stress boosted their levels of telomerase by 29%.
The researchers also reported cells taken from these men boosted the activity of disease-preventing genes, while some disease-promoting genes (such as those involved in prostate and breast cancer) had shut down entirely.
That being said, I'm thinking about eating some carrots, going for a run, and taking a nap...
But only if I can manage to get myself up out this chair.
Your bargain-hunting analyst,
Editor, Wealth Daily