The weird tale of BioViva‘s CEO receiving non-approved gene therapy to fight ageing has developed further – now with ‘successful results’, which have been verified by two EU research NGOs. There may be something to it after all?

bioviva_ageing_gene_therapy_telomerase_biogerentologyStopping ageing has always been a dream of mankind – and one that is slowly beginning to be in the grasp of Biotech.

One of the mechanisms of ageing that is most tackled by research is telomere shorteningTelomeres are caps that protect chromosomes, but get shorter as cells divide – so their length is a sort of ‘expiry date’ on cells.

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Structure of telomeres (left, CC 3.0 Samulili) and the replication of DNA double strands (right, CC 3.0 Sdemarre), which ‘loses’ initial DNA in the lagging strand – part of the reason for telomere shortening.

This line of research is still far from studies in humans. Or it was, before 44-year-old Elizabeth Parrish went out to somewhere in South America in September, to receive a sort of DIY gene therapy (you can read more about the procedure at MIT Tech Review).

As the CEO of anti-ageing biotech BioViva (US), Parrish claims she took 2 experimental gene therapies, which never went through the FDA‘s scrutiny. One of therapies contained genes for telomerase (an enzyme that elongates telomeres), while the other was for follistatin – to increase muscle growth.

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Mechanism of action of telomerase, an enzyme that elongates telomeres (CC 3.0 Fatma Uzbas)

BioViva is now announcing that the telomerase gene therapy was successful. According to them, the telomeres in Parrish’s white blood cells have increased from 6.71kb to 7.33kb.

Taking an average of shortening rates for telomeres, this length increase roughly means that leukocytes went from a biological ‘age’ of around 56 to 32 years old.

BioViva says these results have been verified by two independent research non-profits – Healthy Life Extension Company (HEALES), based in Brussels, and UK’s Biogerontology Research Foundation. But as proponents of anti-ageing research, some have pointed these institutions are not unbiased…

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Research non-profits confirming BioViva’s results. P.S. Very nice logos…

Should the results be validated, it’s a remarkable feat for such an improvised (and sort of illegal) procedure. However, ageing is a complex process – so whether elongating telomeres has a significant effect in the ageing of humans remains to be seen.

In addition, there are side effects to consider. Telomeres are not only linked to age, but also cancer – expressing telomerase is what makes cancer cells ‘immortal’. This has even resulted in a lawsuit.

In the end, the fact that it all happened out of regulatory eyes makes it highly improbable that there will be a reputable therapy available any time soon.


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