Life
Life beyond style

In the last few years, anti-aging research has progressed dramatically, mostly thanks to interest and funding from Silicon Valley billionaires like Peter Thiel, Larry Ellison, and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The science fiction-esque research has explored everything from uploading your brain to an online cloud to “young blood transfusions,” but it looks like the key to (almost) eternal life could be a lot simpler than we think.

A recent WIRED article profiles Dr. Nir Barzilai, who is currently seeking FDA approval for the drug metformin to be used as an anti-aging pill. Metformin is synthesized from French lilac, a plant that has been used medicinally for centuries to fight things like the plague, measles and smallpox. Currently, the drug is approved to treat diabetes and pre-diabetes, but Barzilai alleges that its real power is to radically fight aging.

Preliminary evidence seem to back up his claims. Previous studies comparing diabetics on metformin and those on other drugs found that those taking metformin were much healthier overall. Not only did they live longer, but they were also less susceptible to diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Their cancer risk was 25 to 40 percent lower, and when they did get cancer, they tended to live longer than those not on the drug.

If metformin does turn out to be a wonder anti-aging drug, it won’t just be available to the uber rich. Metformin is generic, meaning that it’s cheap to make — each pill costs just 5 cents and no one company can have a monopoly on it, which ensures that prices remain low.

While that is obviously great for consumers, investors aren’t interested in funding studies into drugs with no huge commercial gain. Because of this, Barzilai himself has contributed some money towards research and he is currently attempting to raise $69 million to fund a large-scale study. If the study goes ahead, he hopes it will prove metformin’s health benefits and secure FDA approval.

Watch Barzilai discuss the potential uses of metformin above, then head over to WIRED for the full profile.

In other news, read how branding has fueled drug culture.

What To Read Next