Scientists may have found the key to eternal youth
People have been seeking the key to eternal youth since ancient times. Whether they prayed to a specific deity for beauty, sought out a magical fountain, consumed potions, or followed strict daily routines, there was always supposedly a way. Now, in the age of selfies and constant media influence on how we should look and act, the search for eternal youth is stronger than ever.
1. Past blunders
One quick flip through a fashion magazine or a stroll down the cosmetic aisle in any store, and you’ll realize just how crazy this “eternal youth” thing is. Wrinkle erasers, line-softening cream, and pore minimizers are only a few of the options out there to give you that coveted babyfaced look.
Some people take it a step further and bring their concerns to a doctor. Plastic surgeons can reconstruct sagging features, and other cosmetic professionals can plump you in all the right places. Let’s take a look at some other weird anti-aging fads through the ages and why they don’t stack up to the science-backed remedies.
The Greeks and Romans shared an old beauty trend that featured one particularly odd ingredient: Crocodile dung. That’s right, these leaders of the ancient world used to coat their faces in poop in the name of beauty. How they discovered their “miracle cure,” one can only guess.
Traditionally, they would mix the crocodile droppings with mud to create a facial. In some places, beauty-seekers could even find bathtubs full of the fortified mixture to give their whole body a rejuvenating soak. There don’t seem to be any notes on how the baths smelled, but we won’t complain if that detail ended up lost to time.
A little tamer than crocodile poop, the Ancient Egyptians swore by a complicated recipe involving fenugreek and water. Fenugreek is a plant whose seeds and leaves are used as a spice in many dishes, particularly in Asia. Its seeds taste a bit like maple syrup, but the Egyptians didn’t eat their fenugreek.
Using an arduous preparation technique, the Ancient Egyptians refined the fenugreek by creating a dough out of its pulverized seeds and seed pods. The initial mixture was left to dry before being processed into yet another paste, which was then cooked in a pot over a fire to extract oil. The precious oils were then massaged into the skin.
4. Vampires’ favorite
Another anti-aging practice that dates back to the 15th century is still in use today. Trendsetter and Countess of Hungary, Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed used to bathe in the blood of young women to achieve eternal youth. The stories behind how she acquired the blood are far more gruesome than anything you’ll find today.
While the treatment didn’t work for the Countess, it hasn’t stopped people from using blood as an anti-aging salve. Today, celebrities like Kim Kardashian buy into the idea that applying blood could be the key to looking young forever. Considering most people would rather keep their blood inside their bodies, this particular trend never really caught on.
5. Recycled materials
Blood isn’t the only bodily fluid people have turned to with high hopes. According to some skincare enthusiasts (notice we didn’t say experts), washing your face in your own urine supposedly helps clarify the skin. Even if it did hold the answers to eternal youth, we’re not sure it’d be worth it.
If the idea of giving yourself a liquid gold facial grosses you out too much, other people swear by breast milk facials instead. While it’s not as bad as human pee or crocodile poop, most people wouldn’t want to collect these ingredients, let alone put them on their faces.
6. Mad as a hatter
In Victorian times, mercury was used for everything from making hats to curing ailments. It also had its uses as a blemish remover and wrinkle eraser. People would apply it to their skin to remove any imperfections, but what they likely didn’t realize was how the mercury worked its magic.
Liquid mercury is a highly corrosive substance that can do a lot of damage to the human body, even in small doses. When people put it on their skin, it removed scar tissue and blemishes because it burned them off. It really is still a wonder anyone survived the Victorian era.
7. Bee happy
As easy as it is to critique antiquated medical practices, some modern “alternative medicines” are just as questionable. One remedy for wrinkles, according to some, is to use the venom contained in tiny sacs at the base of bees’ stingers. There doesn’t seem to be any word on how the product is harvested, but for the bees’ sake, we hope the practice doesn’t catch on.
The bee venom treatment supposedly works because of the inflammatory properties of the juice, which tighten the skin and erase wrinkles. Inflammation does eventually go away, so the results would only be temporary. However, if you happen to be allergic to bee venom, you may end up with a little more puffiness than you bargained for.
8. Add some sparkle
Most of us have walked past packages of charcoal and Dead Sea face masks in the supermarket and beauty shops, but one thing you probably haven’t seen are ones made of gold. Some celebrities have shelled out thousands of dollars to have their faces covered in gold, and they swear it works.
While there’s no evidence that gold does anything to rejuvenate the skin, anyone who feels like pampering themselves doesn’t have to break the bank. If you want to feel like royalty (or a statue fit for a royal family), you can grab yourself a less-expensive version of a 24K gold mask on Amazon.
Another old-timey practice that has inexplicably made a resurgence is the use of leeches. Once upon a time, they were used primarily for bloodletting in order to expel disease from the body. When doctors realized that wasn’t how the body actually worked, people put the leeches down for a while.
Now, these squishy bags of teeth have returned to the spotlight as an anti-aging treatment, and it’s just as hokey as before. Holistic practitioners recommend attaching the leeches near your liver to “draw out toxins” and following up the session with a facial made of leech saliva. Talk about a slimy solution.
10. More poop
Again with the poop. Trendy beauty buffs might tell you that the newest thing is a nightingale guano facial. Astoundingly, this process of smearing your face with bird poop in the name of beauty isn’t a new trend. Historically, this gross “beauty hack” was once pretty popular among certain groups in Japan.
Geishas reportedly used bird droppings to keep their faces pretty and clear of blemishes. Today, the poop is collected and dried before being sterilized and ground into a powder. Continued use supposedly brightens one’s complexion, but given the history of avian diseases spread to humans, we’d rather not risk it, even if it is “clean poop.”
Drawing inspiration from the Far East has once again left some people raising their eyebrows. An expensive global trend that originated in Asia and swept across the UK before reaching the US is snail slime. Fortunately, the facial doesn’t involve putting actual snails on your face.
Tubs of concentrated snail goo to be used as a treatment for sagging skin range in price from about $20 to hundreds of dollars. Supposedly, the slime contains enzymes that promote collagen production. Whether or not the feeling of snail goo running down your cheeks is worth the results is still up for debate.
12. Reusable goods
If the idea of a literal blood-bath grossed you out, this one is likely to make your stomach churn even more. Some individuals claim that facials made from pureed placenta are the true wellspring of youth. It doesn’t have to be human placenta either. Most spas that offer this treatment use goat placentas.
The adamant use of bodily fluids and byproducts as anti-aging miracles got out of hand when someone decided that blood or urine facials were a good idea. One of the weirder options, it just goes to show that people will try anything to look a few years younger.
13. A little relief
If you’re beginning to think that people have a history of putting random things on their faces in hopes that it will remove their wrinkles, you’re not wrong. Fortunately, qualified experts are out there doing actual research to save us the trouble of trial by error, testing options that actual effect our health positively.
Scientists have been studying longevity in the animal kingdom for years in the hopes of unlocking the secrets to eternal youth. Studies have taken them from the DNA of jellyfish to the DNA of average humans. Now, the future looks bright, and it’s all thanks to something we eat every day.
14. Fruit of life
Your parents likely told you that a balanced diet was essential to staying healthy and growing up big and strong. What they probably didn’t know was just how much truth there was to that statement. According to new studies, fruits and vegetables may hold the key to eternal youth, but not in the way you think.
A chemical called fisetin has been run through a series of trials to determine precisely how it works, but at the very least, it seems to remove old cells from our bodies so that new ones can take their place. The nitty gritty of it all it a little bit more complicated than that.
15. Old into new
Fisetin works by targeting senescent cells in the body and destroying them. These cells accumulate as we age, and, unable to divide, cause a breakdown in the cell regeneration cycle. As our bodies hold on to more and more of these cells, repairs slow down. The old cells result in any number of cellular issues associated with getting older.
Healthy cells divide to create new ones out of the same material to take the place of damaged or dying cells. These new cells are healthier and more active than older cells. High concentrations of senescent cells in the body mean that tissue can’t heal itself as readily as it once did.
16. A little help
When we’re young, our immune systems flush out senescent cells to make room for more fresh ones. As we get older, our immune system doesn’t keep up the job as well, allowing these old cells to stick around and slow us down. If we could reverse the process or prevent it from continuing, we could theoretically live on indefinitely.
While immortality might be a bit of a stretch, scientists believe that using a chemical like fisetin could better our odds. Fisetin is a senolytic or a compound that targets senescent cells. Treatments that use these special chemicals could revolutionize the cosmetic industry and help treat aging-related diseases.
17. The dark side
Just having a bunch of old cells lying around the body might not sound like such a big deal, but these cells don’t just hang around. Senescent cells secrete enzymes that can damage nearby tissue, and their accumulation can cause low-level inflammation. Over time, this inflammation can lead to circulatory or immune system deficiencies.
By removing them, many of the visible effects of aging could be slowed or prevented. Unfortunately, anything that has already been damaged would be repaired to an extent, but not enough to reverse the effects of aging altogether. For a more potent remedy, researchers have looked elsewhere for substances that protect the body at the cellular level.
Currently, fisetin has only been observed in cell cultures grown in dishes in a lab and a few tests with mice. In both cases, the experiments have been successful, especially in mice. Human trials will hopefully be coming soon, but scientists need to be certain that they can predict the chemical’s behavior before they will administer it to people.
During lab trials involving mice, scientists divided a group of older mice into two subgroups. One was given doses of fisetin and the other was kept as a control and given no supplements. The mice that received regular doses of fisetin saw a general increase in health and lifespan.
19. Human uses
Other than being a cosmetic therapy for humans, fisetin could see other important applications. One disease that could be treated with a senolytic like fisetin is progeria. The cells of someone with progeria contain a mutation that causes them to age at an incredibly accelerated rate, often giving children the appearance of a much older person.
Individuals suffering from progeria could find relief if they started a routine of fisetin along with other forms of gene therapy. Either through tinkering with genetic code or introducing compounds that can inhibit cellular aging, scientists hope that fisetin and other proven anti-aging treatments can help people with the disease live healthier lives.
20. What it means to live
The distinction that scientists are making to justify the pursuit of this anti-aging supplement is that it improves healthspan in addition to potential lifespan. A person’s healthspan is the time that they’re alive and healthy, as opposed to their lifespan, which only addresses the time they spend alive.
By creating a product that can increase the longevity of a person’s health, the face of therapy could be revolutionized. The field of modern medicine could gain another tool to improve the quality of life for individuals with age-related issues. While it’s not a fountain of youth, it could be just as valuable.
When it comes to human trials, scientists are primarily concerned about being able to predict just what fisetin will do. Lab trials using human tissue have begun to test what the chemical will do. So far, the results have been promising, both in human analogs and in mice. But was it enough to make a substantial impact?
Observations show that fisetin does seem to target specifically senescent cells while leaving healthy, replicating ones alone. Additionally, ongoing trials with mice have revealed that toxicity is relatively low, as no adverse effects were observed when mice were given large doses. The next step was to identify the foods that contained fisetin.
22. Eating your way to health?
While fisetin is found in most fruits and vegetables, strawberries appear to have the highest concentration of it. So, could you eat your way to better health and a longer life? Science says, “technically, yes.” However, just because you might be able to do something doesn’t mean it’s the best idea.
While the senolytic properties of fisetin aren’t entirely understood yet, fisetin and other flavonoids in strawberries are known to protect other cells in the human body from harm and strengthen them. While this sounds like a great exchange for a slight tweak to your diet, it’s not that simple.
23. Superfoods all around
In plants, flavonoids protect the cells from damaging UV radiation. In humans, the compounds take on a different role. They still protect cells, but depending on which flavonoids you’re observing, how they go about it varies greatly. Some attack damaging cells while others fortify healthy cells.
Focusing on fisetin alone, scientists have observed its ability to boost neural function and tackle diabetes. It seems too good to be true, but it’s not. While you might not be able to completely turn your aging process around with a new diet, making a few changes in the right direction could definitely help.
24. Smoothie, anyone?
According to researchers, the average person would only need to eat 37 strawberries per day to gain the benefits. That might sound a little steep, but when you consider the options of smoothies in addition to snacking, it seems more attainable. Fruit doesn’t have to be a boring part of your diet, and it comes in more than one form!
What’s even cooler is that freeze-dried berries not only retain their flavonoids, but the process concentrates them significantly. So, throwing a handful of freeze-dried strawberries into your cereal or yogurt, crushing some on top of a salad, or even mixing them into your ice cream could mean a significant boost for your health.
25. Other superheroes
If you’re looking for a complete boost, take a look at other flavonoids. Polyphenols found in blueberries and—get ready—red wine are also known for being able to kick your system into high gear. While this doesn’t mean that you should become a wino in the name of health, it does mean that, in moderation, it can be beneficial.
While you’re raising a toast to a long healthy life, remember that a balanced diet is always the best kind. Focusing too much on one particular food can do more to harm your system than it can to help it. Just because you can eat that much fruit in a day doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
26. Gene editing
Ongoing research into anti-aging at the genetic level has proved to be successful thus far. Most of the focus has been on the strings of null genetic material tacked onto the ends of chromosomes, called telomeres. Telomeres act as a buffer to protect the valuable source code locked within the chromosomes.
As we age, these telomeres slowly grow shorter, losing length with every replication. Eventually, our chromosomes run out of telomeres and start gnawing into the important stuff. That’s when the effects of aging begin to show. Telomeres are so critical to quality molecular replication for this reason, and modern research on aging has been laser-focused on these chromosome bumpers.
27. Molecular therapy
Naturally, the subsequent lab trials have used telomerase to rebuild these buffers and slow the process of aging. Shortened telomeres don’t just age the body, they can potentially lead to other diseases, so treatments focusing on the restoration of our genes could solve more than one problem at a time.
As with all breakthrough studies, there are still many tests and trials that need to be conducted before telomere treatment goes mainstream. One critical test recently ruled out the possibility that gene therapy could increase the risk of cancer. Trials like that are why scientists don’t rush their new discoveries to the market.
28. Upcycling old genes
Another potential gene editing tool that could be put to use in the fight against aging is the CRISPR-Cas9 sequence. Used for precision gene editing, scientists believe CRISPR could be used to activate a genetic sequence called Klotho. Research on this new use for CRISPR is in its early stages, but of all the tools in the bioengineering world, CRISPR-Cas9 is the most suited for such a precision job.
When activated, scientists believe Klotho could stall or reverse neurodegenerative processes like Alzheimer’s that are typically associated with aging. However, most age-related ailments have other contributing factors, whether they’re genetic or environmental. This makes tackling the whole of the aging process a tricky but ever-important mission to strive for, as so many ailments could be prevented entirely if a solution is discovered.
29. Real changes
No single action is going to completely transform your life’s timeline, but there are a series of things you can do to help. Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is not only good for your body, but studies have shown that pushing your body in physical activity can bolster brain function.
Of course, with good exercise should always come a healthy diet. Making sure that your body is getting the vitamins, minerals, and proteins it needs is crucial if you want everything to run smoothly. Be wary of fad diets and always listen to your doctor. Remember that progress doesn’t happen overnight.
30. Tying it all together
By combining a doctor- or nutritionist-led diet plan with gene therapy or senotheraputic treatment, humans could do a lot to increase their healthspans. Our generation and future generations could begin to see triple-digit lifespans as the norm, and even if the numbers don’t climb exponentially, we’ll be able to enjoy a higher quality of life than ever before.
Science is an ever-evolving field, and senotherapeutics is brand new on the scene. In the coming years, we can hope to see advancements in the area that lead to treatments that everyone can benefit from using. Who would have thought it could have all started with strawberries?