A pill that can fight the ageing process may be available within a generation, predicts a leading scientist.
Dame Linda Partridge, a geneticist at University College London, claimed the drugs will help middle-aged people to grow old gracefully by lowering the risk of diseases like cancer and dementia, which it will do by tackling the root cause - age itself.
AdvertisementIt doesn't promises immortality, instead taking the drugs from middle age or earlier could dramatically shorten the period of illness and frailty that people typically experience before they die, the Telegraph reported.
Speaking at the EMBO life sciences meeting in Nice, France this week Dame Linda said other therapies will be produced that mimic the effects of a severely restricted diet, which animal studies suggest can protect against a host of age-related conditions including heart disease and diabetes.
"One obvious approach in trying to deal with the very rapidly increasing incidence of age related diseases is to tackle the underlying aging process itself, because it is the major risk factor," the paper quoted her as telling The Daily Telegraph.
"What we want is, rather than a lingering period of ill health, to have a fairly sudden death when it comes.
"We are not talking about immortality, we are trying to get rid of that period of ill health that people get towards the end of their lives, to hold off age related disease for longer," she added.
Genetic alterations and diet restriction in animals have been shown to delay ageing by blocking parts of the chemical network in our bodies which co-ordinates everything from growth and metabolism to our reproductive system.
Some drugs licensed for use in humans, including aspirin and metformin, a common diabetes drug, have already been found to mimic the way these gene mutations and dietary restriction affect our bodies, and have a similar effect.
Because the treatments tackle the ageing of the body itself, they could also preserve other traits like our muscle strength, hearing and the condition of our skin.
In the coming decades it may be possible to combine the key active ingredients into a single pill, which would protect us against the ravages of age, Dame Linda predicted.