BOSTON (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- What if you could pop a pill and kill
cancer before you even knew you had it? Or destroy diabetes before it
destroys you? Would you let doctors inject a tiny robot into your body that
targets disease without you even realizing it? These innovations could add
decades to your life.
The end of the road comes fast! But what if you could get an extra mile or
two, or decade or two, out of your life? A little bottle may hold the key.
"What we’re talking about is a single pill that you can take every day that
would ward off most diseases," says David Sinclair, Ph.D., a pathologist at
Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Sinclair and his business partner, Christoph Westphal, believe they have
found an elixir for a longer life.
"We’re talking about treating a very large set of very important diseases.
Really, most of the key killers of most of the western world," explains
Westphal, CEO of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals.
It’s a chemical found in red wine that destroys diabetes, Alzheimer’s,
Parkinsons and cancer.
"Resveratrol is a molecule that comes from plants, and the way we think it
works is it binds to a protein in our cells that combats diseases of aging,"
says Dr. Sinclair.
Resveratrol activates a gene called SIRT1.
"When you activate SIRT1, which is this anti-aging gene, you seem to be able
to treat disease of aging, such as diabetes," Westphal says.
SIRT1 is activated by cutting calories. Mice live much longer when they are
fed a diet with 30 percent to 40 percent fewer calories. Resveratrol mimics
caloric restriction without the strict diet that few people are able to
"What my hope is that doctors will start to prescribe this drug for
diabetes, but doctors will also start to find that this drug starts to do
other things like protect against heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s. That’s
really what the animal models are predicting. In mice, we see this same
molecule, resveratrol, protect against all of these major diseases," Dr.
But nobody knows if resveratrol will be toxic when taken by humans. Mice
have consumed 400-milligrams of resveratrol per kilogram of body weight
without ill-effect. In fact, the rodents became sleek, slim and powerfully
"We think that resveratrol from red wine is just the beginning. It’s more of
just a proof of what’s possible and what is to come," Dr. Sinclair says.
If the answer isn’t in this pill, scientists around the globe are banking on
nanotechnology to add years to everyone’s life. These tiny robots would
exist inside the human body, small enough to assemble and re-assemble
molecular parts to detect and even prevent disease.
Nanotechnology is being used now in Germany to kill prostate cancer.
Particles of iron so tiny you cannot see them with the human eye are
injected into the prostate.
"They have been shown not only to infiltrate tissues if you inject them
directly into a tumor, but also, they can selectively go into tumor cells,"
says Manfred Johannsen, M.D., a urologist at Charité Hospital in Berlin.
The nanoparticles are heated to extremely high temperatures by a magnetic
field, literally burning out the cancer.
"This green is the prostate and the blue spots are nanoparticle deposits,"
Dr. Johannsen says.
But this is just the beginning of nanotechnology.
"We would like to inject them into the veins and they would find their way
into the organ that needs to be treated," Dr. Johannsen says.
At Johns Hopkins, researchers have encapsulated the anti-cancer agent
curcumin in nanoparticles. At Northwestern, paralyzed mice were injected
with nanoliquid. Six weeks later, they could walk. Right now, both are just
in studies, but we could realize the benefits of nanotechnology in the next
10 to 20 years.
"Our goal is to keep people out of nursing homes, instead of extend the time
they’re in nursing homes," Dr. Sinclair says.
But neither of these breakthroughs is a guarantee.
"It’s very hard to make living things live forever. The ravages of time are
very hard on the body," Dr. Sinclair says.
But we want to make sure we’re on the road as long as possible, and by
eliminating disease, we can make our life’s journey last even longer.
As for the magic pill, scientists are now working on molecules up to 1,000
times more potent and active than resveratrol. Human clinical trials will
start next year. Dr. Sinclair believes a pill to fight heart disease, cancer
and Alzheimer's could hit the market in the next five years. Nanotechnology
clinical trials are already underway and are expected to be mainstream in
the next decade. If you think just drinking red wine will do the trick,
think again. It would take 1,000 glasses of red wine to equal the
resveratrol found in just one pill.
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