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A Trial for the ages

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Science  18 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6254, pp. 1274-1278
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6254.1274

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Summary

Scientists are seeking the Food and Drug Administration's blessing for an unprecedented clinical trial--the first test of a drug to specifically target the process of human aging. In some 3000 elderly people, Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, and his colleagues plan to conduct a trial in which half the subjects would get a placebo and half would get an old (indeed, ancient) drug for type 2 diabetes called metformin, which has been shown to modify aging in some animal studies. Because there is still no accepted biomarker for aging, the drug's success would be judged by whether it can delay the development of several diseases whose incidence increases dramatically with age: cardiovascular disease, cancer, and cognitive decline, along with mortality. When it comes to these diseases, Barzilai says, "Aging is a bigger risk factor than all of the other factors combined."

  • * Stephen S. Hall is a science writer in Brooklyn, New York.