The CEO of BioViva, a biotech company that develops anti-aging treatments, Elizabeth Parrish, has put her company’s gene therapy to the test. This, she says, achieved amazing results.
In April 2016, the company revealed that Parrish had undergone a treatment developed by BioVia, and suggested that this was the first gene therapy procedure that had been successful against human aging. They claimed to have reversed her immune cells’ biological age by 20 years.
Speaking about the results, Parrish said that many people will jump to some fantastic conclusions, including defying death, becoming immortal, and so on. And whilst there are companies who are constantly developing life-saving therapeutics for a range of human diseases (check Poseida Therapeutics, for example) BioViva’s focus is on the industrial world’s “biggest point of suffering” – the diseases of ageing.
Two Types of Gene Therapy
Back in September 2015, 44-year-old Parrish underwent two experimental gene therapies in Colombia. The first was a drug, a myostatin inhibitor that was tested as a way of treating muscle loss. The other therapy, which is the one BioViva claim reversed the biological age of Parrish’s cells, was a telomerase gene therapy (another drug). This, they believe, lengthened her telomeres (a part of genetic material).
Our genes are held within chromosomes (twisted molecules of DNA), and telomeres are found at the end of these chromosomes. They’re there to protect any damage from occurring to our important genetic material, which could lead to cell death or a malfunction caused by a disease. Telomeres also enable our cells, and the DNA within it, to divide, but when this happens, a bit of telomeres is lost. This, after a certain amount of divisions, causes the cell to die, which is a process that may be contributing to human aging.
Therefore, the gene therapy that Parrish had was designed to tackle this finite lifespan of our cells, by encouraging the production of telomerase in the cell – a protein that would help to repair telomeres.
As none of the pre-clinical work was carried out by BioViva that would allow them to try the drug out on humans, the experiment carried out on Parrish wasn’t authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration – hence the trip to Colombia to an unnamed clinic.
Despite this controversy, BioViva are adamant the Parrish’s telomeres had grown by 9 percent, just six months after her treatment. This announcement was met with mixed reactions, with many scientists citing that the procedure hadn’t been carried out to proper scientific standards. However, Parrish insists that third-party testing was used throughout and that the test on her telomeres was a standard one that doctors sell and that can be bought over the internet. It was this, she states, that indicated the telomeres had been extended by 20 years.
The Need for More Tests
Parrish has said that a number of people have already contacted her to try their anti-aging therapy, and she argues that there have been enough studies on animals carried out for them to now move onto humans. She believes that the process is wrong and people should instead look at the situation as promising, recognizing that it hasn’t killed mice and it hasn’t killed human cells. She also went on to say that when her company was deciding to do the test, they just said, let’s run with it and see if it’s safe.
BioViva now plan to try the therapy in other cells of Parrish’s body as well as the effectiveness of their muscle-loss treatment. They are also looking to carry out the treatments as tests on other people, but are looking further afield than the U.S. to avoid the stringent laws that are in place here. Parrish commented that they have been looking for a faster route, going from country to country with groups who are trying to get countries to re-regulate. She hopes that new regulatory standards will come in, which will provide a fast track for them to provide these therapeutics to people as quickly as possible.
It isn’t just Parrish and her team who are trying to resolve the aging process, as there are teams of researchers all over the world who are going through the same painstaking process. As they continue to discover more about the human body and the mysteries that surround aging, maybe one day someone will discover a cure that tackles it. But, these things, quite ironically, take time and this is something Parrish may need to start to accept, rather than skipping various important protocols that are in place to protect the consumer.
Louise Griffin works in medical research and shares her thoughts and findings online in her articles. These appear on health blogs, news sites and more.