Growing Old? There Might Be A Pill For That

Illustrated by Gabriela Alford.
Could a pill slow down the aging process? Researchers are set to meet with the FDA later this month in the hopes of getting approval for a trial that could prove just that. The idea is that if a drug could hinder aging, it may ultimately delay the onset of diseases that normally precede death. If the trial gets the green light, thousands of people who are already living with (or are at risk of getting) cancer, heart disease, or cognitive impairment will be given the drug metformin, which is already on the market and used to treat type 2 diabetes. If results show that metformin successfully stalled the progression of these conditions, developers will have early proof that aging, and therefore death, could be delayed. Of course, this brings up some ethical questions, not least of which is: Should aging be considered a "disease"? Should we treat growing old like an illness or condition? That debate will likely pick up steam in the months to come. But, in the meantime, researchers have emphasized that they're not chasing immortality here. Stephanie Lederman, executive director of the American Federation for Aging Research in New York, explained it this way to Nature: “The perception is that we are all looking for a fountain of youth. We want to avoid that; what we’re trying to do is increase health span, not look for eternal life.” As we wait to find out the FDA's decision, we can only hope that, should the trial go forward, the positive intentions of its design will overshadow the negative. After all, living as an older person can be just as exciting as living as a twentysomething — and prolonging good health into old age would only make us happier.

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