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Antiaging researcher Nir Barzilai wants to redefine the meaning of life extension: not simply more years, but more years of disease-free life, free of the suffering and expense of cancer, heart disease, dementia, and other scourges of old age. Barzilai calls it your “health span,” and he’s working to extend it by decades via an affordable generic drug currently in common use for diabetes. Science writer Sam Apple, writing for Wired, dives into the sometimes outlandish world of life extension and describes how one scientist hopes to make the dream reality for millions of Americans.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why metformin could become the United States’ first FDA-approved antiaging drug,
  • How metformin could extend what researcher Nir Barzilai calls people’s “health span” and
  • Why health-span extension offers greater benefits than life extension.
 

About the Author

Sam Apple teaches science writing at the University of Pennsylvania.

 

Summary

Antiaging researcher Nir Barzilai, head of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is leading an effort to develop an affordable generic drug that would delay and reduce the effects of aging. Rather than attempting to extend people’s life span, he hopes to lengthen what he calls their “health span” – the years they remain disease-free. The generic drug, metformin, derives from the plant Galega officinalis – goat’s rue – and today doctors commonly prescribe it for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. Researchers noticed that diabetes patients who take metformin enjoy many extra benefits along with control of their blood sugar levels: Better cardiovascular health, less dementia and Alzheimer’s, and much lower cancer rates. Barzilai believes that taking metformin could extend people’s health span by decades.


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