An age-reversing drug that is slated for use in NASA’s astronauts will undergo human trials within six months. Scientists have found a key signaling process for DNA repair that is meant to protect astronauts from solar radiation, and could reverse aging on earth-bound populations dramatically. When used in trials on mice, the drug repaired DNA damage within a single week, making old mice indistinguishable from young mice.

A team of scientists from New South Wales claim they have developed a drug that reverses ageing and repairs and protects DNA from deterioration. The research is said to be so promising that it caught the eye of NASA who plans to use it for interplanetary space travel.

The DNA damage theory of aging suggests that we get old due to an unrepaired accumulation of naturally occurring DNA damage. Once our DNA has an abnormal structure due to this process, it can contribute to ageing indirectly by way of cellular apoptosis (suicide), cellular senescence (abnormal cell division), or by simple cellular dysfunction and mutation.

Professor David Sinclair, lead author of the study at the UNSW School of Medical Sciences and Harvard Medical School Boston said of the drug,

“This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that’s perhaps only three to five years away from being on the market if the trials go well.”

Protecting DNA damage is key on long space flights. On a single trip to Mars, five per cent of an astronauts’ cells would die and their chances of cancer would approach 100 per cent.

Our cells have an innate capability to repair DNA damage, but this ability lessens with age.

The scientists pinpointed the metabolite NAD+, which is naturally present in every cell of our body, as a key role as a regulator in protein-to-protein interactions that control the repair of DNA.

Treating mice with a NAD+ precursor, or “booster,” called NMN improved their cells’ ability to repair DNA damage caused by radiation exposure or old age.

“The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice, after just one week of treatment,” said Sinclair.

What This Means for The Rest of Us

In theory, the same treatment could diminish any effects of DNA damage for frequent flyers. Survivors of childhood cancers could also be helped seeing that 96 percent of them suffer from other chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes Alzheimer’s disease and additional cancers.

Dr. Wu, Sinclair’s partner in the research said,

“All of this adds up to the fact they have accelerated ageing, which is devastating. It would be great to do something about that, and we believe we can with this molecule.”

The human trials are planned to begin this year at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston.

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