According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review and Scientfic American, an MIT biologist has found a way to turn chemicals that lengthen the lives of mice and worms in the laboratory into an over-the-counter vitamin supplement that people can take to combat aging.
The startup behind it, Elysium Health, was founded by Leonard Guarente, a well-respected MIT biologist who’s convinced that the process of aging can be slowed by tweaking the body’s metabolism. Guarente, who has led the Science of Aging Lab at MIT for over three decades, is joined by more than 30 other scientists, physicians, and researchers, in trying to understnad and impact the mechanisms behind why we age and how to improve it.
According to Elysium, their little blue pill called BASIS "contains nicotinamide riboside, a precursor of the critical coenzyme NAD+, which is involved in metabolic processes such as energy production, DNA repair, cellular detoxification, the inflammatory response, and protein folding. A second component is a new polyphenol compound pterostilbene, which, like the NAD+ precursor, promotes metabolic health."
The first compound is believed to cause some effects similar to a daily diet that is severely short on calories—a proven way to make a mouse live longer. Scientists have shown they can reliably extend the life of laboratory mice by feeding them less, a process known as “caloric restriction.” (Many researchers are also researching whether calorie restricted diets work to advance the lives of humans.)
That process seems to be mediated by biological molecules called sirtuins. NAD is important because it’s a chemical that sirtuins need to do their work and is also involved in other aspects of a cell’s metabolism. Because NAD levels fall with age, BASIS counters that. While the company has had trouble getting a FDA trial, both of the major compounds in BASIS have been proven to improve metabolic health in previous scientific studies.
The company says it will follow strict pharmaceutical-quality production standards and make the supplements available solely through its website, for $60 for a 30-day supply or $50 per month with an ongoing subscription. As the population of people with HIV grows older, could this blue pill prove as popluar as another blue pill that preceded it?