BioViva is one of the small groups interested in bringing telomerase therapies to humans sooner rather than later. It seems they have started in on their small long-term trial of human gene therapy for telomerase activation, and have treated the first volunteer.
I should say that at any given time there is a fairly large gap between what can be done in human medicine, the technology that actually exists and works, and what is being done in trials. Most of this gap is due to regulation, and the rest of it because development groups want to have a reasonable certainty that what they are doing actually works, does more good than harm, and so forth. The regulatory process might last a decade, while the actually useful part of that testing (does it basically work, and is the risk profile sufficiently defined and acceptable to patients) is only a few years. As the cost of research and development in the life sciences falls, it will become increasingly untenable that a huge ball and chain slows progress thanks to regulatory risk aversion, and a growing number of initiatives will forge ahead and build anyway. Some years ago I proposed the Vegas Group fable, something that I think will happen in the fullness of time: alternative roads that bypass official regulation in favor of faster progress, an inevitability in an environment of low-cost research. Also, I think, a necessity.
What about the science here? I've never been a big fan of telomere lengthening approaches, as average telomere length as it is measured today in immune cells looks very much like a marker of the progress of aging, an end stage consequence far removed from root causes. Telomeres shorten with cell division and new long-telomere cells are delivered into tissues by stem cell populations. Thus average telomere length in immune cells reflects some combination of immune health and stem cell activity, both of which are known to decline with age. You can't argue with the fact that telomerase gene therapy has been shown to extend life in mice, however, though you can certainly note that the size of the effect has been getting smaller as the research groups have refined their data and approaches.
How does this work to slow aging in mice? At this point I lump enhanced telomerase activity into the general category of approaches that either probably work or intend to work by boosting the activation of old stem cell populations, resulting in increased repair and tissue maintenance and thus a slower decline into frailty and organ failure. More telomerase doesn't seem to raise cancer risk in mice, but mice have very different telomere dynamics and cancer risk profiles than we humans. The fastest way to figure out what is going to happen in humans is of course to try it, and kudos to anyone volunteering at this stage, but I'd be waiting for a few more years of testing first in animal or tissue models closer to human telomere dynamics. In part that decision would be driven by the fact that I don't think that this is the best approach to move ahead with practical applications, to push ahead and get things done. I absolutely agree that pushing ahead to get things done needs to happen, but I'd rather see this sort of boldness for SENS treatments like senescent cell clearance.
BioViva USA, Inc. has become the first company to treat a person with gene therapy to reverse biological aging, using a combination of two therapies developed and applied outside the United States of America. Testing and research on these therapies is continuing in BioViva's affiliated labs worldwide. BioViva CEO Elizabeth Parrish announced that the subject is doing well and has resumed regular activities. Preliminary results will be evaluated at 5 and 8 months with full outcome expected at 12 months. The patient will then be monitored every year for 8 years.
Gene therapy allows doctors to treat disease at the cellular level by inserting a gene into a patient's cells instead of using the regular modalities of oral drugs or surgery. BioViva is testing several approaches to age reversal, including using gene therapy to introduce genes into the body. Although not generally considered a disease, cellular aging is the leading cause of death in the developed world. Side effects like muscle wasting (sarcopenia), grey hair and memory loss are the well-known hallmarks. And the aging cell is also responsible for the diseases of aging, including Alzheimer's disease, heart disease and cancer. BioViva is leading the charge to treat the aging cell and reverse aging. "The aging cell is a key factor that has been overlooked for too long. Companies have put millions of dollars into treating the diseases of aging, such as dementia, frailty, kidney failure and Parkinson's disease, and we still do not have a cure. Aging involves multiple pathways. We wanted to target more than one for a better outcome."