Humans are always on a quest for eternal life, and will settle for anything that holds the promise--even unproven--of a miraculous extension. Right now, it’s about a pill that has become as popular in Silicon Valley as cosmetic surgery is in Hollywood. We’ve witnessed the unfolding of the supplement craze for some time now, but it isn’t a supplement that’s got Silicon Valley techies on a live-longer binge: It drug being prescribed to control high blood pressure in diabetes patients.
Don’t have diabetes? No matter, the drug--metformin--is still the pill of choice in Silicon Valley, according to CNBC, it’s the pill of choice in Silicon Valley.
And it’s completely unproven as a life-extending elixir. The pill’s adherents, though, aren’t bothered by its lack of evidence, with some SV investors telling CNBC that it is understood to be “a slam dunk for anti-aging effects” and is “fairly safe”.
“Fairly safe” is hardly a ringing endorsement for any drug, but Silicon Valley tends to think it knows best.
Metformin and its effects have, indeed, been the subject of a significant amount of research in recent years.
Some of the experiments with metformin were conducted on animals, but not humans. Research has reportedly shown that aids in reducing calorie restriction by reducing the amount of sugar in the body. There were also some indications among diabetics who have taken the drug for extended periods of time of health benefits, including reduced cancer risk compared to the general population.
And there have been some fairly optimistic and enthusiastic endorsements of the drug for non-diabetic use, including from Lewis Cantley, the director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, who told Wired magazine that “metformin may have already saved more people from cancer deaths than any drug in history”.
Silicon Valley is obsessed with extending life, and while more recently that has been about insanely expensive ideas such as including yourself with the blood of a healthy teenager … metformin costs about 5 cents a pill.
To the chagrin of the wealthy tech industry, that would render long life accessible to the rest of the public, and we’re not sure that was the end game. But it is what it is.
Essentially, metformin is a modified version of a compound that comes from the Galega officinalis plant (French lilac). It’s not some crazy scientific concoction that came out of a 3D printing lab. Nor is it anything new at all. It’s more of a rediscovery than a discovery.
In a report published by the US National Library of Science, experts even ask whether it might not be possible for people with diabetes to outlive those without, because of this drug.
"Patients with type 2 diabetes initiated with metformin monotherapy had longer survival than did matched, non-diabetic controls,” said the report.
Not every medical expert is one board with the idea, though--largely because of lack of research.
Nic Barzilai, the metformin research pioneer who serves as the director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, strongly disagrees. He is determined to get the FDA to approve this drug not only as an aid in the fight against cancer but as an all-around life-extension drug.
“Rich people are interested in aging. They call me to prescribe metformin, but they don’t understand that I’m doing something that’s more profound,” the New Yorker quoted Barzilai as saying.
”We’ve cured cancer in lab mice dozens of times, and made them live twice as long, yet none of those results have transferred upstream. So many times, the mice have failed us,” he said.
The longevity-obsessed of Silicon Valley, though, isn’ bothered by the mice’s failure.
By Michael Scott for conil.me
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