An American (Kansas-based) biotech company, called Libella Gene Therapeutics, has launched clinical trials in Colombia to test a new anti-aging therapy. The gene therapy can reverse aging by 20 years, says the company. As a bonus, it can also treat age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and critical limb ischemia. There’s a bit of a catch, however: it costs one million dollars to participate. If you’ve got that kind of money to spare and are at least 45 years old, the company says its all ready to give its experimental anti-aging therapy at a clinic north of Bogota, Colombia!
Of course, scientists and ethicists are concerned, for two main reasons. One, the clinical trials are taking place in a different country outside of US jurisdiction to avoid the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Two, participants usually don’t have to pay a fee to enroll in a trial. On the contrary, if it’s not free, they get paid!
Putting skepticism aside – ‘how does the therapy work?’ – you may be wondering. It reverses the aging process by lengthening a person’s telomeres. Telomeres sit at the ends of chromosomes like caps on the end of shoelaces. As a person gets older, their telomeres get shorter. Libella’s therapy involves the delivery of a gene called hTERT to cells. hTERT makes a telomere-rebuilding enzyme called telomerase. The company believes telomerase can delay, prevent, or even reverse the aging process.
Jeff Mathis, CEO of Libella Gene Therapeutics, told OneZero:
I know what we’re trying to do sounds like science fiction, but I believe it’s a science reality.
Nobody knows if this treatment will work. But we may know soon enough. The first person to receive the anti-aging gene therapy, a 79-year-old, will start the clinical trial any day now. There will be a total of 5 participants, all testing if the treatment is “safe and tolerable.” Two other sets of trials, also involving five people, will be conducted at the same time but focused on preventing, delaying, or even reversing the development of Alzheimer’s disease and critical limb ischemia.
In all three test groups, participants will remain in the clinic for ten days following treatment for further monitoring. After that, they’ll have to return to the clinic over the following year at regular intervals for checkups. They will monitor their telomeres and other biological markers for aging, as well as any health differences.
There’s a chance in this clinical trial that something could go wrong, something could go right, or nothing will happen at all. The therapy may not deliver any notable health benefits since there is no proven connection between the effects of aging and telomere length.