Clinical trials of the first anti-aging therapy

Original author: Steve Hill
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We are pleased to announce that UNITY Biotechnology has launched human clinical trials of the first true anti-aging therapy that directly targets one of the causes of aging: senescent cells.

Peace revolution

In our collective imagination, revolutions begin with an explosion; however, more often than not, real technological revolutions begin calmly and without the knowledge of most people. This is largely what happens with therapy, the purpose of which is to prevent or treat age-related diseases by directly targeting the causes of aging.

The very first human test of senolytic drugs was announced back in June, and most of the world paid little attention to him, and what his success could be for the future of medicine. We are talking about a statement by UNITY Biotechnology about the start of testing its senolytic drug UBX0101 in patients with osteoarthritis.

Senolytic educational program

Senolytics are a class of drugs that can potentially affect senescent cells, which is one of the causes of aging . Simply put, a cell becomes senescent when it loses its ability to divide. This occurs as a response to DNA damage, and therefore it is a kind of protection in order to prevent the proliferation of cells containing mutations, such as cancerous ones. This response may be caused by telomere depletion, as the cell performs the maximum number of divisions it is capable of, or other external stresses, such as oxidative stress.

Cellular aging helps prevent cancer and is important in wound healing; however, the accumulation of senescent cells over time is harmful. Senescent cells secrete a cocktail of chemicals calledan aging-related secretory phenotype (SASP), which is associated with a number of age-related diseases; SASP promotes tissue inflammation and causes aging in neighboring healthy cells, initiating a chain reaction.

While senescent cells tend to be destroyed by the immune system, an increasing number are avoiding destruction due to immune aging - an age-related decrease in the ability of the immune system to do its job. This, in turn, leads to the accumulation of senescent cells and an increase in chronic inflammation.

For several years, it has been suggested that selective elimination of senescent cells can reduce, potentially stop and reverse some age-related pathologies; several bioengineering companies have developed various types of senolitics aimed at senescent cells, leaving healthy cells intact. The results on mice of different ages were very good, but the only way to find out if the Senolytic is useful to humans is to run a clinical trial on humans.

UNITY Biotechnology and Test UBX0101

UNITY Biotechnology was founded in 2011 by Ian van Dursen, Judith Campisi, Nathaniel David and Taohong Zhou. UNITY focuses on the destruction of senescent cells, but the company is also working on mitochondrial dysfunction and the loss of circulating juvenile factors. Her plans include several drugs that are currently under optimization, and UBX0101 has just entered Phase 1 of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, FDA-approved clinical trial .

UBX0101 is currently being tested for safety in patients suffering from mild and severe osteoarthritis, an age-related pathology affecting the joints and causing destruction of cartilage and bone. This pathology can cause joint edema, decreased mobility, joint pain and stiffness, affecting everyday life. Cellular aging is associated with osteoarthritis and affects different joints, but the UNITY study is currently focusing on knee osteoarthritis. Although this test is intended primarily to assess the safety and tolerability of a single injection, efficacy will also be monitored.

What's next?

It is too early to say how well Senolytics will work in public, but regardless of this, the process can be considered an important milestone on the path to a world free of aging. Although this study focuses on a specific pathology, the UNITY approach focuses on the primary cause of aging, reversing the disease, or at least slowing it down; Currently, osteoarthritis is treated - like most age-related pathologies - only symptomatically.

If the test is successful, it will attract more resources for such studies in order to further improve the approach and, possibly, expand it to treat other pathologies; other companies may follow UNITY’s lead and join the race to improve technology that has already proven effective; more generally, a successful senolithic test will provide evidence of the concept that human aging is amenable to medical intervention not only in theory but also in practice. This can be a fatal blow to pro-aging trance, which leads many people to believe that there is no need to interfere with aging.

UNITY also has a second candidate for senolytics, UBX1967, an inhibitor of specific members of the BCL-2 regulatory protein family of apoptosis, which is scheduled for phase 1 clinical trials in the treatment of eye diseases in the second half of 2019.


This is the first real anti-aging therapy in clinical trials in humans, based on the repair approach to aging, developed back in 2004 by Aubrey de Gray from SENS. Removal of these problem cells has long been proposed as a way to combat age-related pathologies, and we have reached the point at which over ten years of research are finally ready for testing.

If the test fails, it will still provide us with invaluable information, deepen our understanding of aging and allow us to try again. In any case, it will be a win-win option. We are pleased to update our Rejuvenation Card to include UNITY in it, and we wish them success!

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