Is TA-65 the Means to Immortality?

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Humans have dreamed about immortality for as long as there have been humans. Yet the “fountain of youth” is still just a myth, and human lifespans today are topping out around 120 years for a few people. People over age 100 are one of the fastest growing age groups, but still there are grave concerns about whether large numbers of centenarians will be healthy enough to be worth the additional years.

Scientist and author Dr. Aubrey de Grey recently wrote about the advancing anti-aging technologies and why they may work in his book Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime. De Grey believes that human lifespans of 500 years or more may be just around the corner. But there are many different competing theories of aging, each explaining different aspects of aging but none of which individually explain it all.


Telomere Theory of Aging

One of those theories of aging has to do with the ends of our DNA strands known as telomeres. Telomeres get shorter with age, kind of like a biological clock within each of our cells. When telomeres get very short or disappear, cells can no longer reproduce well. Either their reproduction stops, or DNA replication misfires and causes genetic damage. There is evidence that reversing the shortening of telomeres could significantly increase lifespan, at least at the cellular level. For instance, most cancer cells are immortal in that they can reproduce endlessly because their telomeres do not shorten.

Recognizing the promise of the telomere theory of aging and what restoring telomere length might do to lifespan, investors have funded companies to find a way to apply the science to marketable (and they hope eventually profitable) aging treatments. One of these companies is T.A. Sciences. It has announced the TA-65 telomerase activation supplement derived from the Chinese herb and traditional medicine astragalus.

If you’ve got the money (about $25,000 to $35,000 spread over two years) and are willing to undergo the full four segments of the Patton Protocol of pulsed TA-65 administration and consume many other helpful dietary supplements (antioxidants, N-acetylcysteine, alpha lipoic acid, lycopene, lutein, trimethylglycine [betaine HCl], CoQ10, L-Carnosine, EPA, DHA, etc.), the company believes that it can restore your cells to a youthful state. They are confident enough of its safety that all of their employees age 40 and over receive the Patton Protocol TA-65 treatment, named after the founder of T.A. Sciences, entrepreneur Noel Patton. Noel Patton takes twice the dosage of TA-65 per day as anybody else, in effect making him a human guinea pig for the supplement.

Note that TA-65 isn’t an FDA approved treatment. As the company explains, it is not a drug and they don’t claim it prevents or treats diseases so therefore FDA approval is not required:

TA-65 is classified as a nutritional supplement, not a drug. TA-65 activates telomerase and this helps keep cells functioning in a normal and healthy way as we age. It is not a drug and we make no claims that it prevents or treats any disease. FDA approval is not required for nutritional supplements.

Why Do Cells Age?

Before you spend a fortune on a therapy like this, you are likely to want to know what it does, why is it believed to work, and what are the risks. To explain why it may work, let’s rewind to 1961. Dr. Leonard Hayflick, a noted biological researcher, discovered that normal human cells can only replicate a limited number of times before they can no longer reproduce.

About 30 years later, Dr. Calvin Harley discovered the connection between cell division and aging is that DNA strands get shorter with each replication. He noticed that the ends of the strands look like a bunch of repeated junk that doesn’t have an obvious purpose as part of genes. The ends were called “telomeres” and as it turns out, the lack of obvious genetic purpose is far from accurate. Telomeres allow DNA strands to be replicated without damaging the essential DNA between them. They function as starting alignment points for DNA replication to begin. However, the starting point of the telomere is not itself replicated, thus each successive generation of cells has shortened telomeres.

When telomeres get too short, the cells can no longer replicate well or at all and become senescent. The Hayflick limit is the number of times cells can divide before senescence occurs, and it varies from species to species. In humans, it is about 70 times in a 3% oxygen environment similar to the inside of the human body. Surprisingly, some organisms do not have telomeres that shorten with age. The small bird known as Leach’s Petrel has an unusually long lifespan for birds its size with an average of 20 years and maximum recorded lifespan of 36 years. In 2003, scientists discovered that the bird’s telomeres lengthen with age, possibly explaining its long lifespan.

However, it has been noted that humans have some of the shortest telomeres for primates yet have among the longest lifespans. Similar observations have been made regarding bird species that live longer than Leach’s Petrel. Clearly there is something more involved in lifespan than just telomere length. It’s possible that some species have non-critical genes at the ends of their chromosomes that aren’t as badly damaged by replication misfires due to lack of telomeres. Or it could be that the DNA repair capabilities of some species are better and make it possible to fix the mess of damaged DNA that resulted from telomere-depleted cells attempting to replicate. As of yet, there is mostly speculation and little consensus on this matter.

Australian-born biologist Elizabeth Blackburn‘s groundbreaking work on telomere research while at the University of California is recounted in the book Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres: Deciphering the Ends of DNA. She is co-discoverer of telomerase, the enzyme that helps lengthen telomeres. She has continued her research on telomerase, discovering that the enzyme upregulates 70 genes known or suspected to be involved in the growth of cancers in the body and that people under high stress tend to have shorter telomeres.

Interestingly, other research has shown that poor people tend to have shorter telomeres than rich people, potentially making them more susceptible to more rapid aging and cancer induced by telomeres becoming so short that DNA replication goes haywire and causes mutations, cross-linking, and other genetic defects. The poor people tended to have telomeres shorted by the equivalent of about 7 to 9 years of additional age.

TA-65 Increases Telomerase Production

T.A. Sciences licensed the TA-65 molecule from Geron which originally developed it during cancer research trying to find ways to stop cancer by interfering with the uncontrolled cellular replication of cancer cells. Most types of cancer cells are immortal, meaning they can continue to reproduce endlessly. This is because they, like many stem cells, have the unusual property of reproducing without shortening of their telomeres.

Claimed Evidence for Effectiveness of TA-65

In 2002, T.A. Sciences purchased a license from Geron for non-pharmaceutical and cosmetic uses of TA-65. In 2005, the company ran a small double-blind study involving 36 research subjects over 24 weeks. 12 of the subjects consumed placebo tablets, and 24 consumed product tablets.

The study is summarized at in the document T.A. Sciences Pivotal 2005 Anti-Aging Trial of TA-65. The study claims the product group subjects experienced measurable improvements in vision, skin condition, immune system functioning, and sexual functions.

T.A. Sciences has also published many testimonials from customers. Some of them point to testing showing that subjects gain about 100 base pairs added to their telomeres for each 3 months of treatment. At birth, human blood cells typically have telomeres about 8000 base pairs long. By around age 35, they are down to about 3000 base pairs. And in the elderly (age 65 and up), telomere length falls below 1500 base pairs. If you work out the rate of telomere shortening per year from age 35 to 65, it appears to be about 50 base pairs per year. So if TA-65 supplementation is adding about 400 base pairs per year, it is “undoing” about 8 years of aging per one year of treatment.

What would the benefits for longer telomeres be? As University of Utah research Dr. Richard Cawthorn has found, people with shorter telomeres have much higher death rates:

(from University of Utah: Are Telomeres the Key to Aging and Cancer?)

Cawthon’s study found that when people are divided into two groups based on telomere lengths, the half with longer telomeres lives five years longer than those with shorter telomeres. That suggests lifespan could be increased five years by increasing the length of telomeres in people with shorter ones.

People with longer telomeres still experience telomere shortening as they age. How many years might be added to our lifespan by completely stopping telomere shortening? Cawthon believes 10 years and perhaps 30 years.

Another telomere-related health study cited by the Los Angeles Times clams that the cardiovascular disease patients with the shortest telomeres had twice the risk of heart failure and death of those with the longest telomeres:

(from Genetic clues to predicting life span)

One recent study published in the July 2008 Journal of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, an American Heart Assn. journal, found that, among 780 patients with stable heart disease, people with the shortest telomeres in their immune cells had twice the risk of death and heart failure after 4.4 years as patients with the longest telomeres. Those in the highest-risk group had telomeres half the length of those in the lowest-risk group.

TA-65 Production

Getting a useful quantity of TA-65 requires processing literally tons of astragalus plants, thus in part explaining why this therapy is expensive. Astragalus is widely used in Chinese medicine and has been for more than a millenium. As a derivative of a widely used herbal supplement with a very long track record of usage, it is perhaps somewhat less likely that any of the substances in it would be severely harmful to humans.

Eventually, it is likely there will be a way to produce the TA-65 substance more efficiently. However, if TA-65 really works, it seems the demand would skyrocket. Therefore the price may not come down even if it can be made more inexpensively.

TA-65 Risks

One possible risk is that there may be something else in the TA-65 supplement coming from astragalus that is harmful to humans. But the track record of astragalus usage is long and the herb has increasingly been studied for immune-boosting effects entirely apart from TA-65’s telomerase activation effect. So it seems at least somewhat likely that harmful effects of small quantities of other astragalus compounds would have been noticed in other studies, but this is by no means a certainty.

A bigger risk may be cancer. Cancer cells use telomerase to lengthen their telomeres and reproduce without limit. Thus some have speculated that increasing the amount of telomerase in the human body could render people more susceptible to cancer. So far, there is no evidence of this. Some of the theories on how cancers form relate to telomere-depleted cells attempting to replicate and getting damaged in the process, thus turning them into cancer cells. If that line of reasoning is correct, keeping the telomeres longer could be advantageous to avoiding the development of cancer cells in the first place.


Buy.com Related Titles for Under $11 New

Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever The Life Extension Revolution: The New Science of Growing Older Without Aging Younger You
Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres The New Memory Boosters: Natural Supplements That Enhance Your Mind, Memory and Mood The Edge Effect The Amazing Way to Reverse Heart Disease Naturally: Beyond the Hypertension Hype: Why Drugs Are Not the Answer

Telomerase Activation Competition

T.A. Sciences isn’t the only company in the business of activating telomerase to extend cell telomeres. One of the co-discoverers of the telomerase gene, Dr. William H. Andrews, co-founded Sierra Sciences in 1999 to find compounds to acts as telomerase activators. It has developed technology to rapidly screen thousands of compounds for the telomerase activator properties. The company claims to have discovered 176 such telomerase activating compounds so far and is screening about 4000 more compounds each week. Sierra Sciences has also published a list of diseases that it believes are related to cell senescence that could be treated with telomerase activation technology.

Sierra Sciences isn’t ready with a product yet. So its founder, Dr. Andrews, is taking TA-65 from his competitor:

(from Never Say Die: Step aside, quacks. The search for longer life is a real science now.)

Telomere biologist Bill Andrews of Sierra Sciences is taking a telomerase-boosting supplement called TA-65. “I believe it’s safer than driving my car to work,” he says. Since he started taking it a year and a half ago, Andrews says he has moved from the back of the pack to the front in 100-mile runs known as ultramarathons.

He’s provided a testimonial for T.A. Sciences, too:

“Last weekend I finished in 11th place overall out of 72 runners in a 100 mile ultramarathon. That’s the best placing I ever had. Surprisingly, I had no pains whatsoever after the race. I felt like I had done just a typical afternoon jog.

I am a Telomere Biologist, and I understand how important a telomerase activator could be in countering the aging process, but I don’t understand the mechanism of how lengthening telomeres would give me this sudden success in running. Maybe TA-65 does more than just lengthen telomeres.”

Bill Andrews, PhD 56
Reno, NV

Ethical Debate Regarding Life Extension Technologies

In 1994, Hayflick wrote a book How and Why We Age that explained his theories on aging. Interestingly, he’s against life extension technologies and considers them immoral and fraudulent, as explained in his position paper from 2002 that was originally published in Scientific American in June 2002.

Scientist Dr. Aubrey de Grey is skeptical of telomerase activation being the key to life extension and says its benefits have yet to be proven. But in contrast to Hayflick, he argues that basic anti-aging science is already well ahead of the funding for it to be applied to humans. He believes that the first human to live to 1000 years old may already be alive today. To help jump-start the application of anti-aging sciences to humans, he created the Methuselah Foundation’s Mprize for researchers who demonstrate methods to break the record lifespans for mice. As mouse studies are often precursors to human studies, the hope is that demonstrating the means to extend mouse lifespan will make it more likely that similar research will be conducted in humans.

Even if human lifespan isn’t extended remarkably beyond the current record of 122 years, improving health quality during old age would be a dramatic achievement. If typical 90 year olds had the health of today’s 40 year olds, spending on health care could be controlled while life expectancies continue to increase.

Physicians Ronald Katz (senior editor of Longevity magazine, found of the American Longevity Research Institute) and Robert Goldman have written The Official Anti-Aging Revolution: Stop the Clock, Time is on Your Side for a Younger, Stronger, Happier You to explain the various theories of aging and many of the available anti-aging medicine technologies and how they prevent aging-related diseases and lengthen lifespans. They believe it will soon be common for people to live beyond 100 years old, but that health and lifespan are diminished in most people due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, hormone imbalances, stress and sleep troubles, and other maladies of increasing age that cause more severe health problems. They describe how vitamin and herbal supplements can help remedy nutritional deficiencies and toxin accumulations, natural hormone therapies can address falling levels of human growth hormone, DHEA, melatonin, thyroid hormones, and sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone that all contribute to common problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. It’s a very comprehensive book with emphasis on scientific basis and avoiding sensationalism.

Conclusions

The telomere theory of aging is just one of many, but it does explain several aspects of aging and lifespan that don’t seem to be fully explained by other theories. Personally, I think telomeres shortening with age is likely a significant part of the overall aging process, but there is more to it than just telomeres.

That said, it is unlikely that TA-65 is the “fountain of youth” on its own. But from the evidence presented by T.A. Sciences, it does appear that TA-65 increases telomere lengths significantly and does cause improvements in some measurable criteria for health. The two downsides are the very high cost and a risk of side effects. So far, with about 100 patients undergoing TA-65 treatment to date, apparently there are no known significant side effects.

It is notable that many of the patients undergoing TA-65 treatment are scientists and doctors. Partly this may be because they have the money to do it, but it seems likely they also are more likely to be aware of the telomere aging theory and its implications.

Ultimately, understanding whether telomerase activation technologies like TA-65 will significantly improve health and lifespan is going to take decades and many more subjects before any really solid conclusions can be reached. If T.A. Sciences and Sierra Sciences can cut the price of telomerase activation therapy so they can enroll more customers in carefully monitored treatments with objective measurements of wide ranges of health parameters, it seems plausible there may be definitive answers about the long-term promise of telomerase activation within the next decade.

TA-65 and similar technologies are definitely something to watch. If I had the money to participate, I would give it a try myself as you only commit to 6 months at a time and if there are no positive results or harmful side effects, you can drop out before the full 24 months of treatment.

However, even if I did have the money, I’d still be very interested in other developments in anti-aging medicines. Fortunately, many of them are much more financially affordable and even the not-so-rich can try to extend their healthy lifespans through combinations of supplements, hormones, exercise, and anti-stress/pro-sleep lifestyle changes.

Further Reading

TA-65 Telomere Lengthening Just One Part of Anti-Aging Healthcare

Chromosome Ends and Aging

Never Say Die: Step aside, quacks. The search for longer life is a real science now.

The quest for the test tube of youth

University of Utah: Are Telomeres the Key to Aging and Cancer?

Genetic clues to predicting life span

Aubrey de Grey, PHD: An Exclusive Interview with the Renowned Biogerontologist

Ending Aging – by Aubrey de Grey, PhD., with Michael Rae

Book Review: Ending Aging – by Aubrey de Grey, PhD., with Michael Rae

The Quest For Immortality:
Want To Live 500 Years? One Scientist Says It May Be Possible One Day
(CBS News 60 Minutes Interview)

This Man Would Have You Live A Really, Really, Really, Really Long Time. If a mouse can survive the equivalent of 180 years, why not us? Or our kids? Scientific provocateur Aubrey de Grey has a plan.

On the Path to Building a Better Mouse — and Man: Inaugural Methuselah Mouse Prize Awarded to Further Anti-Aging

Why We Age: Telomeres

Anti-aging Medicine: Wave of the Future, or Wrong Turn?

Methuselah Foundation: Extending Healthy Human Life

SENS Foundation: Human Regenerative Engineering

Sierra Sciences, LLC is a company devoted to finding ways to extend our healthspans and lifespans beyond the theoretical maximum of 125 years.

FDA OKs 1st Embryonic Stem Cell Trial

New Product Scientifically Battles Aging at the Cellular Level-Exclusively licensed from the Geron Corporation, TA-65 is the world’s first Telomerase Activator

Is There A Secret To Eternal Youth? Some Laud Dietary Supplement TA-65, Some Question It


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products mentioned in this post are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

  1. September 19th, 2010 at 14:00 | #1

    What I have just read seems incredible. There are so many con-artists everywhere. We receive spam daily from the whole world. I want to believe this!

    We are in the mid 60´s. I am constantly tired all day. Have been the last 10 years continuously. My dream is how can I feel fresh and not tired. Does this work on our age bracket? We are procrastinators unfortunately but hopefully this can happen so we can turn over a new leaf. Please have the courtesy to reply with a true comment. I am waiting.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Henrik Wendt

    • September 20th, 2010 at 01:15 | #2

      Henrik,

      It appears that the evidence for TA-65 causing lengthening of the telomeres is substantial. However, keep in mind that this is reversing just one aspect of aging. There are many other components of aging, including oxidation, glycation, mitochondrial damage, hormonal imbalances, and many other common aging problems. While there are strong reasons to believe that increasing telomere length will allow healthy cells to replicate for years or even decades longer, if the other aging factors are not addressed then it may not be enough to make much difference in the lifespan of an entire organism even if individual cells can live much longer.

      TA-65 is not the only compound found to increase telomere length. There is some evidence that supplementation with high levels of antioxidants and B vitamins may have similar effects.

      When telomeres shorten over the aging of individual cells, eventually the cells become senescent and cannot replicate further. It appears that there may be a way around this besides the TA-65 approach of activating the telomerase enzyme to grow the telomeres. There is a drug call rapamycin (brand name Sirolimus) that may help cells with short telomeres continue to function. The problem is that it is an immunosuppressant typically used for transplant patients. A 2009 study of rapamycin on mice showed that there was a significant increase in lifespan:

      (from Sirolimus aka Rapamycin mouse lifespan extension)

      In a 2009 study, the lifespans of mice fed rapamycin were increased between 28-38% from the beginning of treatment, or 9-14% in total increased maximum lifespan. Of particular note, the treatment began in mice aged 20 months, the equivalent of 60 human years. This suggests the possibility of an effective anti-aging treatment for humans at an already-advanced age, as opposed to requiring a lifelong regimen beginning in youth. However, because it strongly suppresses the immune system, the drug cannot be easily used by humans. While the mice in the study were housed in pathogen-free facilities, people taking rapamycin are very susceptible to life-threatening infections, and require constant medical supervision.

      Another research paper on rapamycin effects of preventing cell death from short telomeres suggests that the effects are entirely separate from a telomere lengthening effort seen in other research such as on TA-65 and in cancer research. This paper suggests that rapamycin may have this effect because of a strong antioxidant action.

      I hope this helps put TA-65 in perspective. I’d view it as one means to help reverse some of the effects and components of aging.

      Alison

  2. Sheri
    June 4th, 2012 at 13:40 | #3

    would like to buy the product

  3. Alison
    June 4th, 2012 at 19:37 | #4

    @Sheri

    I think TA Sciences is still selling TA-65 directly and also with partner doctors. They may be able to help you find one.

    To know if it is working on your telomeres and health improvements are not just from some other things you are trying, you will need to run some telomere length tests, then supplement for probably six months or more, and then re-run the tests. If you’re not prepared to try it for at least half a year, I wouldn’t bother with it because reports are that it takes at least a few months to have effect.

    RevGenetics is selling it, also. They have done some additional tests they believe show that TA-65 does activate telomerase.

    Also, here’s a link to where to find it on Amazon in case you prefer that route. From what I saw, the 30 capsules 250 unit bottles and 90 capsules 250 unit bottles were both available there.

    There’s an updated version of this TA-65 article you might also want to read.

    Also there’s a helpful discussion thread on TA-65 at Life Extension that is worth reading.

    Alison

  4. Ivan
    October 7th, 2012 at 16:43 | #5

    @ Alison
    Yes TA Sciences still selling TA-65 with certified partner doctors. You can find a list of all their partners on the website, but i personally buy TA-65 at TA-65 doctor. The reason is simpler. They have the highest rating in the opinion of customers at Amazon. And always arrive 1 day or up to 2 after ordering.

  5. Kate
    February 14th, 2015 at 22:52 | #6

    @ Ivan
    @Ivan
    Over two years later, do you still take TA-65 and if so, what benefits do you get from it?

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