Harvard Scientists Are One Step Closer to a Genetic Fountain of Youth

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The news: It took centuries, but humanity might have found the fabled fountain of youth  — and it's in a Harvard laboratory.

Scientists from Harvard and the University of New South Wales have figured out how to reverse the aging process in mice. Recent, small-scale testing on humans has shown "promising results," reports Australia's ABC.

The key is in the genes: Fighting the aging process is simply a matter of turning on more youthful genes while turning off the older ones.

"We've discovered genes that control how the body fights against aging," David Sinclair, a genetics professor at Harvard and the study's lead researcher, told ABC. "If you turn them on just the right way, they can have very powerful effects, even reversing aging."

The secret lies in a molecule called NMN, short for nicotinamide mononucleotide. It's a chemical derivative of vitamin B3 that costs a whopping $1,000 to $2,000 per gram. When scientists fed the mice NMN, they noticed it "reversed aging completely" in their muscles.

Sinclair noted the strongest results had only been seen in mice so far. Still, he said the small clinical trials done on humans were promising, and that his team's discovery could one day rival antibiotics in importance.

This study isn't the only one to claim breakthroughs in the anti-aging field. Earlier this year, Harvard scientist Doug Melton discovered injecting older people with young blood slowed down and could even reverse the aging process.

But these advancements shouldn't be taken lightly: Average life expectancy is constantly increasing in the Western world. As a result, the population of adults ages 60 and older is soaring.

As society continues to gray and as technology improves, anti-aging pills and procedures of all sorts are a likely development. Last month, the Atlantic asked what would happen if we all lived to 100. We should start thinking about the answer, as a society and as individuals, both from a financial and emotional standpoint. Given it's increasingly clear that unnaturally long life spans are going to be a reality in the near future, there's no time like the present.