Immortality for sale! (well almost)

For decades I have been expecting this some time in this century:

Anti-diabetic drug slows aging and lengthens lifespan, animal study suggests
Date: June 2, 2014
Source: KU Leuven
Summary: Researchers have provided new evidence that metformin, the world’s most widely used anti-diabetic drug, slows aging and increases lifespan. Scientists teased out the mechanism behind metformin’s age-slowing effects: the drug causes an increase in the number of toxic oxygen molecules released in the cell and this, surprisingly, increases cell robustness and longevity in the long term.

My basic paranoia was expecting it to be expensive and kept secret. What will it do to the population problem?

The weird thing about science fiction was it not appearing for 700 years in Bujold´s CRYOBURN and for 1800 years in Weber´s Honor Harrington series.

But to show up as a side effect in a commonly used drug for a known disease, what scientific irony.

So what do you expect the social/cultural effects to be? Oh, one article says the cost is $0.16 per day. That is $60 per year.


A suggestion from one animal study? Let me know when real news happens.

I was listening to a researcher who was studying medical research announcements. She was saying how less than 1% of “breakthrough” announcements that reach regular media pan out. The chances of being in that 1% depend strongly on how far along the study process the “breakthrough” came from, eg you better be at human subjects to have a chance of being a real breakthrough.

Anyone catch Breakthrough this weekend? They did a whole show on this. One group trying to get the FDA to even acknowledge aging as something that can be treatable was going to try (IIRC) to get Metformin evaluated as a possible drug that slows aging based on a meta-study that seemed to show an effect. In the show they actually got the FDA to think about it and consider the proposal.

Not sure why you’d need to get the FDA on board so badly (they didn’t explain that part), but it was an interesting show discussing the progress being made in the field of slowing or even halting aging (and of course having to also deal with all the problems that would cause, such as cancer, if you managed to do it).

I think we’d adapt if it happened over a decade or so (hopefully it will happen in the next decade or so, that way I can live another couple decades at least :p). We have already adapted in a pretty short time frame to people living longer and more remarkably better more full lives into their 80’s and 90’s or even 100’s.

It would be a huge help for countries like Japan that have or are about to have a huge aging population issue if they could have their people live longer and more productive lives…longer AND better lives is the key.

It isn’t just one study, I just mentioned one. You should be able to figure out what to Google from what I posted.


Great rebuttal.

There’s no need for a rebuttal. If you want to debate cheap longevity then go for it. But there’s no reason to think it’s close because of a study on roundworms.

Googling shows other animal studies but I think immortality is vastly overstating things. A little extra longevity seems more appropriate at this point.

I can’t tell if that is serious or sarcasm.

This is not some newly invented drug. It has been in use for diabetes for 60 years so there has been plenty of human study just not for this “side effect”. That is what is so funny, extending life as a SIDE EFFECT.

If this were some new drug that had never been used on people I would regard your complaint as valid and I would not have started the thread.

The advers side effects seem to be relatively rare like 9/100,000. Some people are allegic also but I haven’t seen statistics on that.


I said “immortality” as an amusing come on and it is obviously ridiculous. But there seems to be some disagreement about the data. Your article looks a bit shallow.

How much difference it makes seems to depend on when the treatment is started in the “victims” lifespan. The earlier the treatment the greated the difference. That is why this is so curious. More informative experiments may take 5 years. But what is the difference for a person beginning the treatment at 30 versus 35?

I saw one graph on mortality of two groups of mice, one treated and one not, but I will have to find it again.


Yes, and a conspicuous lack of immortal diabetics in those 60 years.

But isn’t this just kicking the can down the road? Instead of dealing now with a bunch of 90-year-olds draining the economy, in a generation we’ll be dealing with a bunch of 130-year-olds draining the economy…

So if the effect of the drug begins at a young age then how does testing 70 and 80 year olds inform 30 year olds if they should try it?


Yeah, just kill 'em and be done with it.


Off to IMHO for solicited opinions.

Thing is, studying longevity effects of various treatments in mice is probably completely worthless. Mice are very very short lived mammals. They have all sorts of adaptations for fast growth, fast reproduction, and fast senescence.

We know that lifespan is variable and under some sort of physical control, because different animals have different lifespans. So finding treatments that make mice more like typical mammals in lifespan rather than extreme outliers is silly. Any treatment that extends lifespan in mice by altering their metabolism is probably something that longer lived mammals already do naturally.

Human beings are at the very very far end of the longevity scale for mammals, mice are on the opposite end of the scale. Mice are horrible models for experimental longevity treatments.

Yes, it would be nice to imagine a cheap drug that counteracts aging in humans. But it doesn’t seem likely because the human body already has countless adaptations to extend lifespan. We’re already playing on 10. You’re on 10, all the way up. Where can you go from there? Nowhere.

Tortoises are at 10, istm.

Worms are quite different from mice also.


I don’t think that the people who are using mice in these studies are too stupid to realize that it’s not a one for one analogue between mice and humans. Mice are used in all sorts of testing. Also, it’s not just mice that are tested or that they have seen effects in…mice are simply one of the easier animals (mammals) to breed for use in a lab.

None of this precludes some sort of treatment to slow or even halt aging in humans, though. There seem to be quite a few scientists and groups working on this, so I’m going to have to go out on a limb and say that they aren’t all idiots or deluded in thinking that it’s at least possible. Or, maybe we have a case here of human exceptional-ism. :stuck_out_tongue: