The Hunt for the Fountain of Youth: Forever youthful if not living forever
Dr. Patricia FarrellDec 24 · 5 min read
The beauty business, at a net worth of $532B, promises smooth skin, lotions to banish wrinkles, and any blemish that dares appear on your face. It is a business that is looking, avariciously, at scientific breakthroughs that can keep all the promises they’re making. Some estimates view the global beauty biz as reaching $27T in 2026 and “accounting for as much as 20% of global GDP.”
And the beauty moguls have a serious-science cohort working toward biologically maintaining youth, if not eternal life. Thus far, research is convincing everyone that they’ve made multiple advances in the battle for preserving youth at the cellular level. And the consumer base isn’t restricted to those in the Silver Tsunami.
“I have patients in their middle-twenties who want Botox,” a dermatologist told me without a hint of astonishment. “We do more skin rejuvenation work than anything else now.”
This particular practice has now seen the more profitable side of skincare; cosmetic dermatology. Three new lasers, a specialist in fillers, recollagenation for acne scars, prn medical plumping, and new staff are all ready for an increasing patient load.
And more men are coming in for work on their wrinkles and frown lines. The practice even sells a line of specially formulated skincare products.
“The men’s personal care industry is predicted to hit $166 billion by 2022, according to Allied Market Research. Just last year, men’s skin-care products alone saw a more than 7% jump in sales and with the category currently valued at $122 million, according to market researcher NPD Group.
“In recent years, the notion that men can’t or shouldn’t be using skin-care products or caring more in general about all aspects of their appearance has been receding,” said Andrew Stablein, research analyst at Euromonitor International in a research note.”
Men are no longer ashamed to purchase lotions, toners, and cleansers in an age of gender-neutral products aka skincare products. The indications are that the 18–22 market is considerable and there has been a 7% increase in the male-targets products in this area in the past year. Business, as they say, is booming.
The office, is in an area called “Billionaire’s Mile,” a New York City suburb. Here, the women religiously attend morning body-firming classes in their in-home gyms, and inspect each morsel of food for any hint of cholesterol, salt or carbohydrates. Whatever is left, they eat and hope it goes immediately to firm up their gluts to a rock-hard state.
The Hottest Areas of Advancement
The predictions on anti-aging are outsized, and at least one executive predicting it will “dwarf the dotcom boom.”
Far from the cosmetics counters of upscale department stores or specialty shops on the avenues in major cities, scientists are making advances in biotechnology that targets senescence cells, which are sometimes referred to as zombie cells. These cells stop dividing and begin to accumulate in organs, creating inflammation involved in advancing aging.
One company is evaluating a specific protein known as mTOR, which their research has suggested may prolong life span and delay the onset of age-related diseases. Their success has not always been on an upward curve, however.
Is there something that rivals mTOR? Fasting or caloric restriction can also affect the aging process. The latter is based on an ancient Japanese teaching of hara hachi bun me.
Other research delves deeper into the cell’s internal workings, specifically the mitochondria, which are the powerhouse organelles of the cell. These tiny structures may contribute to the death of cells or the emergence of new cells to replace those that are dying. And it doesn’t stop here.
Researchers are expressing optimism that they will one day be able to use specialized stem cells to regenerate organs or reverse disease.
Genes, Cells But No Cremes
One important discovery has already been made in an existing drug. Cell aging and the aging process can be dramatically affected by an inexpensive diabetes drug that is currently on the market, metformin. According to Dr. Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, this drug has the potential to slow cell aging.
Dr. Barzilai is currently testing his hypothesis and is involved in a $50M, five-year clinical trial with the drug. Prior research has indicated that metformin may be useful in several age-related diseases, including cancers, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease. The hunt for anti-aging products is not, therefore, exclusively one of vanity, but of advancing health by maintaining biological “youth.”
Scientists at UCLA, working with fruit flies, noticed that the work-horse mitochondria became damaged with age. The damage led to material accumulating in the brain, muscles, and other organs which, Dr. David Walker, a professor of biology and physiology at UCLA, noted is the reason for age-related diseases.
“We think the fact that the mitochondria become larger and elongated impairs the cell’s ability to clear the damaged mitochondria. And our research suggests dysfunctional mitochondria accumulate with age, rather than being discarded.”
Their task, therefore, as he saw it, was to find a way to clear out this material and return the cell to normal functioning. Other research conducted at the same facility found that addressing one specific gene could enable the cell to repair itself, in effect. As Dr. Walker stated, “It’s like we took middle-aged muscle tissue and rejuvenated it to youthful muscle.”
The Fountain of Youth sought by Ponce De Leon is there, but it’s a search that must be accomplished via internal exploration. The “treasure” will be health into advanced age and inordinate profit for those who manage to crack the body’s code to reveal the biological algorithm being sought.