The cultural fixation with youth has permeated industries from cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food, supplements and more. We are frequently hearing that a magical cure is just around the corner.
Professor Nir Barzilai, director and founder of the Institute for Aging Research at Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has more reason than most to believe that this is not far from the truth.
These days, Barzilai is working on an ambitious new project that is making waves globally. If it succeeds, it could start a total revolution in how we treat illness and aging.
Barzilai is overseeing a clinical trial titled "Targeting Aging with Metformin", or TAME, which seeks to discover whether Metformin, a medication prescribed for diabetes, may also delay the onset of aging-related illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, and cognitive impairment.
The trial is currently in the final stages of planning and is searching for further sources of funding. The planned trial is to involve administering Metformin to thousands of elderly people, some of whom suffer from the aforementioned illnesses, and some of whom have the potential to develop the illnesses. Another group of subjects, identical in makeup to the first, is to be given a placebo as a control.
Comparison between the groups (while taking into consideration variables like diet and smoking habits) could prove whether Metformin can slow the progress of diseases, prevent them, and even increase life expectancy.
"Today we are able to treat one illness every time it appears," Barzilay says. "The health system is divided into institutions, each of which deals with a specific institution: there's an institution for diabetes, heart problems or cancer. The logic behind this structure says: we'll treat the illness with a medication and thus basicallytreat aging. But we are saying that the approach should be: we'll treat aging and thus treat illnesses.