Scientists and gerontologists alike note that living longer is not enough as the world population ages. Particular attention must be paid to the health aspect of longevity. There is no doubt that healthspan therapies are an exciting field of research and development.
Longeveron Inc., a healthspan research company, recently reported exciting data on its clinical trials. This biotech is developing a living cell-based therapy for treating, reversing, or preventing chronic diseases caused by aging or related conditions.
People Are Living Longer, But Far From Healthier
By 2060, the Census Bureau projects that the U.S. general life expectancy will reach 85.6 years. As of 2022, it is 79.05 years. Nevertheless, aging is associated with increased health risks, and bad lifestyle choices and accidents can have a cumulative effect.
Worldwide life expectancy has also increased significantly in the last 50 years or so. It went from 58.1 years in 1970 to 73.2 years in 2020.
The possibility of living into your 80s or 90s exists. Still, if people have severe dementia or cannot physically function due to an age-related illness or injury, those extra years may be unbearable for them.
Since some people are born with disabilities ranging in degree, the definition of living healthy is subjective. Researchers interested in healthspan aim to help people live longer while enjoying relatively good health during those extra years.
Healthy life expectancy (HALE) is often cited as one of the most effective measures developed to date when attempting to quantify healthspan. In accordance with statistics compiled by the World Health Organization, HALE is the number of years before the onset of any serious illness, such as dementia, stroke, or cancer.
For example, in 2019, the HALE for the USA was 66 years old. With the present life expectancy at 79.05, the last 13 years of an average older American’s life will be spent in poor health. This is basically 13 years of physical or mental torture, depending on the illness or health problem.
Healthspan Research Objective Is To Prevent and Repair
While developing better treatments for diseases is crucial, they have often been designed to eliminate the disease. As well as seeking to delay the onset of disease, healthspan research also aims to repair body damage done by illness so that those who are already ill can bounce back to their former levels of health.
For example, take a company like Oisin Biotechnologies. They design and develop programmable gene therapies that destroy senescent cells (cells that age and permanently stop dividing but do not die) based on their DNA expression. The company hopes to develop drugs that reduce senescent cells to treat various age-related diseases.
As a result of Oisin’s proprietary platform testing, both lifespan improvement and the selective and efficient removal of senescent cells have been demonstrated in multiple animal models. Oisin has displayed the ability to benefit both disease burden and lifespan in animals.
Another exciting company in the news lately is Altos Labs, which has received $3 billion in funding from investors like Jeff Bezos, a group full of Nobel Prize winners and scientists.
Altos’s purpose is not to extend human life by 100 or 1,000 years. Their primary objective is to help people lead healthier, longer lives and reverse illnesses affecting all ages. In Altos’ plan, cells will be reprogrammed to become younger instead of older to reverse senescence.
Longeveron To Target Aging Frailty Via Cell Therapy
Unlike other anti-aging companies that are still in preclinical stages and have a long way to go before their treatments can be tested safely on humans, Longeveron is, for instance, undergoing clinical trials for cell therapy, which may prove helpful for treating or preventing age-related diseases, as well as relieving the suffering of older adults.
Clinical trials at Longeveron are either ongoing or have been conducted on aging frailty. The general physiological decline in function associated with aging renders some elderly individuals more prone to disease, injury, and inferior clinical outcomes, including death than their non-frail counterparts.
Longeveron reports targeting inflammation and vascular dysfunction with its leading drug candidate, Lomecel-B. This drug uses medicinal signaling cells and is being assessed for its anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and regenerative properties, encouraging the body to heal its internal organs and tissues.
In a Phase 2 study performed last year, intravenous Lomecel B therapy increased walking distance by 40 meters in older adults after six-minute walk tests. (The difference was adjusted for placebo six months after the high-dose group received Lomecel-B treatment).
In November 2021, the company announced a Phase 2 clinical research agreement with the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology and Juntendo University Hospital in Japan to explore Lomecel-B’s efficacy and safety in older Japanese people.
As of 2022, Japan has the second-longest life expectancy in the world, behind Hong Kong. Approximately 29.1% of Japan’s population as 65 years or older in 2021. The agreed research will investigate how effective Lomecel-B will be on motor skills, physical function, ordinary daily activities, and inflammation-related biomarkers.
Although longevity research is making breakthrough discoveries, this new science is still in its infancy. It remains to be seen what leaps and bounds this new industry will uncover in the next 20 years.
Longeveron appears to be ahead of the pack when it comes to lengthening healthspan. In the next two decades, diseases may be a thing of the past and another chapter in the history books.