Apr 27, 2016 I Charley Cameron

Gene Therapy May Have Reversed Human Aging for First Time

The controversial process of reversing aging through gene therapy is no longer solely for mice, if–and it's a big if–new data from biotech firm BioViva can be validated. The company claims that their 44-year-old CEO, Elizabeth Parrish of Seattle, has become the first human to be "successfully rejuvenated by gene therapy," after two experimental procedures appear to have reversed 20 years of normal telomere shortening.

BioViva explains:

In September 2015... Elizabeth Parrish received two of her own company’s experimental gene therapies: one to protect against loss of muscle mass with age, another to battle stem cell depletion responsible for diverse age-related diseases and infirmities.

The company's intent was to demonstrate that these treatments–which Parrish, as Patient Zero, underwent in Colombia so as not to incur the wrath of the FDA–are fundamentally safe. But early data suggests that in the six months following the administration of the gene therapies Parrish's telomeres lengthened from 6.71kb to 7.33kb, which would imply that her white blood cells became 20 years "younger" in that time.

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BioVIva CEO Elizabeth Parrish

For those not up on theories of telomerase gene therapy, telomeres are short segments of DNA that cap our chromosomes, and they serve as buffers to protect chromosomes from damage. But every time a cell divides, the corresponding telomeres get shorter. Proponents of telomarase gene therapy believe that by lengthening telomeres we can reverse the process of aging. Parrish herself considers aging to be a disease, and as a company BioViva believes that telomerase could be used to combat not just sagging skin but also Alzheimer’s Disease.

Parrish said:

Current therapeutics offer only marginal benefits for people suffering from diseases of aging. Additionally, lifestyle modification has limited impact for treating these diseases. Advances in biotechnology is the best solution, and if these results are anywhere near accurate, we’ve made history


For now, Parrish remains the only human guinea pig for BioViva's gene therapies, and the company will continue to test their CEO's blood for months and years to come while they seek some seriously vital third party validation for their findings.

But don't expect be able to sign up for trials any time soon. As Parrish explained to Inverse, gene therapy is still "too far-reaching, [and] the costs to get through the U.S. FDA are too high." Which pretty much leaves the rest of us who'd like to defy aging to continue to eat more vegetables and hit the gym once in a while.

For more on this new development, listen to the MU Plus podcast.

Charley Cameron

Charley Cameron is a freelance writer based in New Orleans. Born and raised in Northern England, she moved to the U.S. to study photography and new media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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