Teleomeres in the News (with Comment by Robert Kane Pappas)

September 8, 2010

Can a new supplement boost immunity, slow aging?

by Mary Brophy Marcus

[This article, from USA Today (which doesn't provide a lot of detail), talks about a study on a telomerase activator supplement (paid for by the supplement-maker) that claims to lenghten telomeres (for about $8,000 per year).]

“A new study out this week suggests a dietary supplement from a Chinese plant may create changes on the ends of our chromosomes that help keep DNA intact, possibly boosting the immune system.

The research, published in the scientific journal Rejuvenation Research, reports on a year-long study on a dietary supplement called Telomerase Activator TA-65, which researchers believe may help reverse the aging process by lengthening telomeres — the caps on the ends of chromosomes that keep DNA intact as cells divide. Shortened telomeres are linked with aging and a lowered immune response.

But some aging and telomere experts are skeptical.

The study raises more questions than answers, says Janko Nikolich-{Zcaron}ugich, chairman of the Department of Immunobiology and co-director of the Arizona Center on Aging at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

“This study may be the basis for a fully controlled clinical trial,” he says. But he says the study shouldn’t be used to promote the supplement because it was not designed to test the body’s immune response to it.

But the study’s authors believe the results are a positive reflection on the supplement’s potential as an anti-aging compound.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Below is a comment by Robert Kane Pappas, director of TO AGE OR NOT TO AGE, on the attached article .

“Note that the study performed was not a blind clinical trial.   I had a discussion of this fact with Noel Patton, CEO of TA Science with regard to his telomerase activator TA 65.  This brings up a feature related to the various breakthroughs – compounds made available as a supplement vs. FDA drugs that get approved.

From the scientists I have spoken with, getting a drug approved by the FDA is extremely expensive — hundreds of millions of dollars at least — and fraught with PR castastophies and politics.  For instance, there are always some people who react badly to a drug that is helpful to many.  During some stage of FDA testing of a given drug, there are likely to be some participants who, for one reason or another,  suffer adverse side effects.  With the wrong publicity, that drug’s FDA track can be ruined.  Conversely, another drug’s wheels might be greased in some way, or have a lucky go of it through the FDA; and then later, after the public has been taking the drug for years, it is found to be harmful.  The point here is that getting a drug through the FDA process is not what it seems.

Along come “aging gene” targets for drugs:  SIRT1, the Telomerase Gene, TOR etc.  In the labs, the scientists expose these genes (targets) to 10’s of thousands of known compounds in nature — some give a “hit” — in this case — with the telomerase gene.

To come up with a “prescription drug” the FDA process will go through 3 stages, various studies taking 5 to 10 years, and costing huge amounts of money.  Those giant drug companies also want to be able to patent a resulting drug (possibly worth billions) but they can’t just patent a naturally occurring compound, they have to make another novel version of it.  So, the large companies will not have an incentive to take that natural compound and do the extensive testing required by the FDA, they will want to do that with a patentable drug derived from the science learned from the naturally occurring substance.  A similar thing happened with resveratrol and GlaxoSmithKline. 

Less rigorous studies, like the one mentioned in the above article, is the alternative (and obviously quicker) approach with these naturally occurring compounds.  There are unknowns and risks with this approach.

Our website intends to conduct volunteer studies with one or two of these formulations of these compounds in the near future.  Look out for our updates.”

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