A cure for aging? Hype outpaces reality

A cure for aging? Hype outpaces reality

- in Health
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By Marisa Taylor, Kaiser Health News

David Sinclair, a renowned Harvard University geneticist, recently made a startling assertion: Scientific data shows that he has knocked more than two decades off his biological age, 49.

What’s his secret? He says his daily regimen includes ingesting a molecule his own research found improved the health and lengthened the lifespan of mice. Sinclair now boasts online that he has the lung capacity, cholesterol and blood pressure of a young adult and the “heart rate of an athlete.”

Despite his enthusiasm, published scientific research has not yet demonstrated that the molecule works in humans as it does in mice. Sinclair, however, has a considerable financial stake in his claims being proven correct, and has lent his scientific prowess to commercializing possible life extension products such as molecules known as “NAD boosters.” NAD stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, a key compound in all living creatures.

If you say you’re a terrific scientist and you have a treatment for aging, it gets a lot of attention.

Jeffrey Flier, former Harvard Medical School dean

His financial interests include being listed as an inventor on a patent licensed to Elysium Health, a supplement company that sells a NAD booster in pills for $60 a bottle. He’s also an investor in InsideTracker, the company that he says measured his age.

Discerning hype from reality in the longevity field has become tougher than ever as reputable scientists such as Sinclair and pre-eminent institutions like Harvard align themselves with promising but unproven interventions — and at times promote and profit from them.

Fueling the excitement, investors pour billions of dollars into the field even as many of the products already on the market face fewer regulations and therefore a lower threshold of proof.

“If you say you’re a terrific scientist and you have a treatment for aging, it gets a lot of attention,” said Jeffrey Flier, a former Harvard Medical School dean who has been critical of the hype. “There is financial incentive and inducement to overpromise before all the research is in.”

Elysium, co-founded in 2014 by a prominent MIT scientist to commercialize the molecule nicotinamide riboside, a type of NAD booster, highlights its “exclusive” licensing agreement with Harvard and the Mayo Clinic and Sinclair’s role as an inventor.

Further adding scientific gravitas to its brand, the website lists eight Nobel laureates and 19 other prominent scientists who sit on its scientific advisory board.

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