Since ketosis is argued to be a component of the effects of calorie restriction, responsible in some part for the reliable benefits to health and longevity that result, some research groups have investigated ways to induce ketosis via treatment rather than via diet. This is a subset of broader efforts to produce calorie restriction mimetic drugs that mimic some of the effects of a low calorie diet on cellular metabolism. With the funding now pouring into the biotech startup arena, it was inevitable that some of it would make its way towards work on aspects of calorie restriction that was ready to make the leap to commercial development, and here Juvenescence and the Buck Institute have chosen to wrap a company around some of their work on ketosis.
I will say that I think the scope of benefits that can be produced via calorie restriction mimetic development is limited. We know what calorie restriction itself does in humans: it is significantly beneficial for long-term health, reduces risk of age-related disease, but doesn't extend human life span by more than a few years. We don't know just how many years, but we do know that it can't be a very large number of years, because otherwise that outcome would have been discovered long ago. Further, mimetics only capture a fraction of the benefits; calorie restriction works through countless changes to the operation of metabolism.
Thus I believe that working in this field will do little to nothing to change the shape of human life. It will produce only an incremental improvement above the state of medicine and aging that presently exists - and is unlikely to produce a larger effect than the actual practice of calorie restriction. In an age of biotechnology, with clear guides to ways in which to produce reversal of aging via repair of molecular damage, we can and should aim to achieve far more than mimicking the effects of a good diet.
Jim Mellon's crew at Juvenescence has found its latest venture idea in a popular diet making its rounds in biotech circles. Once again teaming up with the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Juvenescence has launched BHB Therapeutics to explore preventative medicines that have potential to protect against age-related disease by inducing a state of ketosis, where the body burns fat instead of carbohydrates, spurring the production of anti-inflammatory ketone bodies. In particular, the biotech startup will focus on the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate, or - you guessed it - BHB.
Eric Verdin, the Buck president and CEO whose research inspired another Juvenescence spinout, has discovered that BHB helps the body respond to stress. A ketogenic diet - which has been heralded for its effects in weight loss, hunger suppression as well as concentration - and the consequent long-term exposure to ketone bodies can also extend healthy lifespan in model systems. Buck researchers have generated "hard scientific data" in mice that show ketosis can be cardio-protective. "The reason we think that cardio-protection may translate to humans is because if given sugar or ketones, many people's hearts prefer ketones, whereas the brain is the opposite. If given the option between sugar or ketones, the brain will take sugar. Unfortunately, individuals when they hit 50 (plus or minus a couple years) they become insulin resistant - and then the sugar can go seriously high in a variety of organs and that leads to a variety of different pathologies."
Just days ago, Juvenescence unveiled the first $46 million tranche of a promised $100 million raise that's designed to bankroll longevity projects with the collective goal of extending the human lifespan to 150 years. So far, it's ticked off stem cell tech and organ regeneration among the fields it's established itself through joint ventures with AI groups - Insilico and Netramark - and controlling interests in AgeX and LyGenesis. The goal is to have 18 projects underway by the end of the year. Look for two or three of them to be announced over the next few weeks.