Longevity moonshot therapy sparks interest from NASA with signalling molecule NAD.
Our DNA gets damaged every day; this damage can come about from various sources, including chemical processes in our cells, free radicals, UV light, radiation and cell division. In fact, scientists estimate damage from oxidation occurs at least 10,000 per day in every cell in our bodies, while breaks in single strands of DNA is estimated to be 55,200 per cell per day – that’s 2,300 strand breaks per cell per hour .
It’s vital that our bodies repair this broken and damaged DNA as defective DNA can cause cell death and cancer. Luckily, we have a whole host of specialised repair teams that can fix all sorts of problems, from base pair mismatches to whole strand severance . However, scientists have found that this ability to fix DNA declines with age , leading to increased cell death or senescence and bodily degradation, as well as leaving us more at risk of developing cancer.
Longevity.Technology: Having the ability to repair damaged DNA will allow us to regulate aging, prevent it and possibly even reverse it. Using research in other scientific areas to enhance our understanding will help progress our knowledge and bring life extension technology to the market all the quicker.
The TRL score for this Longevity.Technology domain is currently set at: ‘Early proof of concept demonstrated in the laboratory.’
The TRL score for the technology addressed in this article is: ‘Preliminary idea with well characterised theoretical case.’
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have discovered that signalling molecule NAD carries out a vital and previously unknown role in our cells. Scientists have known that NAD+ controls the process of oxidation, a process that can damage our cells, but the Harvard team discovered that is also a key regulator of protein-to-protein interactions that take place in DNA repair .
Harvard researchers collaborated with scientists from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, discovering that when they treated mice with a NAD+ precursor called NMN, it worked like a booster shot, increasing the amounts of NAD+ and improving the mice’s cells’ ability to repair damaged DNA. NMN resulted in the repair of DNA that had been damaged by old age or exposure to radiation. Professor David Sinclair of UNSW School of Medical Sciences and Harvard Medical School Boston said: “The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice, after just one week of treatment. .”
Later experiments showed that mice given NMN showed a restoration of blood flow as the resultant increased levels of NAD+ encouraged the mice’s bodies to form new blood vessels and showing a 60% improvement in treadmill exercise tests and doubled endurance exercise results . The research team is currently testing NMN in human trials at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and hope to release their results later this year.
However, it is not the anti-aging spin that has NASA calling; astronauts experience accelerated aging from cosmic radiation, a form of high-energy radiation thought to mostly originate outside our solar system, though some particles also come from the Sun. During a six-month mission to the International Space Station, an astronaut is exposed to between 50-2,000 millisieverts (a unit of ionising radiation)  and one sievert carries a 5.5% chance of eventually developing cancer due to damaged DNA .
Astronauts travelling to and landing on Mars would be exposed to 700 times the cosmic radiation as the people on Earth . If NASA could harness the power of NMN, DNA damage from cosmic radiation could be limited and even reversed. This would also be a human trial that is out of this world, paving the way for Longevity solutions that could be available over the counter.