Mitochondrial restoration therapy could be launch pad for longevity

Mitrix Bio CEO on how targeting increased longevity for astronauts could also pay dividends for those back on Planet Earth.

Mitrix Bio recently announced the creation of a new subsidiary, Biotech Explorers, that is aiming to achieve a 130 year lifespan in humans. Initially focused on astronauts, and bringing benefits for those suffering from early-aging diseases, the trials will transplant bioreactor-grown mitochondria into volunteers to increase the number of functional mitochondria.

Longevity.Technology: In addition to extended lifespan, Biotech Explorers also hopes to demonstrate rapid wound healing, enhanced radiation and infection resistance and muscle generation. Initially intended to make space travel less dangerous and debilitating, the implications for earthbound therapies are obvious. We sat down with Mitrix Bio CEO Tom Benson to find out more.

Tom Benson on…

Mighty mitochondria

One of the reasons that we age, and one of the primary causes of aging is that as the years go by, our mitochondrial DNA get damaged and accumulates transcription errors. It’s an unstoppable process, and even though the body fights it, eventually, you get old and that’s the end.

We lose as much as 30 or 40% of our mitochondrial DNA by the time we’re in our, let’s say, our 80s, and that means less energy. Our solution is very simple – we want to fill you back up with functional mitochondria by pushing the ratio of dysfunctional mitochondria to functional mitochondria back towards the younger state. It’s mitochondrial restoration – putting in more functional mitochondria.

Mitochondrial transfer is simple in theory, but in reality, there’s some incredibly tricky biology going on. In our labs we use a stem cell bioreactor to grow stems cells and extract the mitochondria from there. We put them in a coating or some kind of carrier, and then we either inject them under your skin or intravenously – there’s all kinds of ways to get them into the body, and we’ve talked about doing it into the eye.

The human factor

In the animal tests we’re doing, which are mostly in mice, we can put in about a quarter to a half a percent of the body’s mitochondria per treatment – this is a huge amount. We are working on increasing that number to between a 2% and 10% boost.

We became very clear on the fact that doing primate studies, for example, wouldn’t actually doesn’t help us because human beings are so different from other animals. Every animal’s tremendously different. Mice don’t age like anybody else, for example, so we do all these mouse studies, but what good does it do us? Because they’re different. So you could do mouse studies for the next 15 years. You’re still at a certain point where you have no choice but to go into into humans, and start from scratch anyway. Mitochondrial transplants are already being used in humans, already – they are just not being used for aging, but for other rare diseases. So we’re not the first by any means to do it in human beings.

We’ve seen in we’ve seen in animals that mitochondrial restoration has caused reversal of aging phenotypes – we’ve seen muscles grow and get stronger, we seen improvement of cognitive processes and dramatic improvement in immune systems. I’m hoping that’ll happen in human beings.

While our target is to treat astronauts, the initial first four trial people are just volunteers – Jeff, Gail, Ed and Ellen. They are aged between 75 and 80 years old, and a key part of using human volunteers, is so we can know what the therapy feels like. Animals can’t tell you what it feels like, and in his trial, the human element is critical.

Stand by for launch

The idea of using mitochondrial restoration for helping astronauts with the implications of space travel on their bodies came to our attention about a month ago at a webinar when we discussed space travel and learned all kinds of fascinating stuff about zero G, the stresses, the lack of sleep and so forth – but especially the radiation, which causes premature aging.

Imagine you are in a moon colony for a month, or you’re traveling to Mars and that’s a six-month trip, or you’re traveling in space and there is a solar storm and increased radiation, or you break an arm or get a burn. We’ve spent billions of dollars sending these astronauts into space, and they need the best medical treatment they can get and they need it on an emergency basis – certainly for radiation. Mitochondria have an advanced accelerated healing property, so a bank of mitochondria on the space vehicle could help astronauts recover from damage. The way we envision it, is there would be multiple types of mitochondria, there might also be stem cells, growth factors, and extract of platelet-rich plasma, which has a lot of healing properties. All stored cryogenically and radiation-shielded.

From a mitochondrial perspective, healing and aging are actually two sides of the same coin. If a small amount of this stuff could help save astronauts from some injury or help them recover or heal or so forth, then we can use larger doses in much larger quantities to slow down the aging clock – and I think even potentially reverse the aging clock.