Meet The Senior Dogs Trying The Latest Anti-Aging Pill

About a year ago, Sherman, a 13-year-old Pomeranian often mistaken for a teddy bear, had a stroke. The right side of his body went slack, and he couldn’t hear or move his tongue. His owners, Paola Anderson and Sarah Godfrey, had to feed him by hand and carry him outside. We took him to many different pet checkers and ultimately ended up taking him to a vet.

After spending several weeks and thousands of dollars on veterinarians and tests, they discovered the culprit: a tumor in an adrenal gland. Vets said Sherman probably had less than a month to live unless he had a tricky surgery. But Anderson and Godfrey didn’t want to put him through that. Even before the stroke he was a sick dog — with ligament problems, a collapsing trachea, and chronic bronchitis.

They asked a local herbalist who had treated them for years for advice. “He said, whatever you need to do to put your dog on rapamycin, do it,” Anderson told BuzzFeed News.

They had never heard of rapamycin, and started reading everything they could find about this supposed wonder pill. Turns out it’s an old drug, first isolated in the 1970s from dirt samples collected on Easter Island. In large doses, it can be a dangerous drug: Today, it’s usually prescribed to suppress a person’s immune system during an organ transplant.

Rapamycin stops tumor growth in lab experiments, and similar drugs have been tested in people with a variety of cancers. More recently, it’s made headlines for a tantalizing link to longevity: In studies of yeast, worms, flies, and mice, rapamycin has extended lifespan by 15 to 30%.

Most exciting for Anderson and Godfrey, scientists in Seattle had just launched a study to see if rapamycin would also extend the life of older dogs. Sherman couldn’t get into the study because he wasn’t a healthy dog. But he could still try rapamycin — if they could find a vet willing to prescribe it.

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BuzzFeed News, June 2016.

Are Video Games the Future of Brain Medicine?

On October 6th, I find myself in the gleaming office of a Boston biotech. I’ve been seated in a clear plastic chair, where I am about to try an experimental medicine for a brain disorder I don’t have.

The space is home to PureTech Ventures, the parent company of Akili Interactive Labs, which makes the new medicine. Since December, children in Florida and North Carolina have also tried the treatment as part of a formal clinical trial for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The medicine is unusual because of its delivery system: an iPad or iPhone. That’s because the medication is a video game called Project: EVO.

Until now, I haven’t touched a video game since about 1991. What if I fumble the mechanics, or worse — what if the game deems me cognitively deficient? One of Akili’s founders, 32-year-old Eddie Martucci, hands me an iPad and I see my avatar: a yellow humanoid, floating on a jet-fueled raft down a crooked, icy river. My task seems simple: I tap on blue fish that zoom overhead, but avoid the red and green fish, as well as blue birds. Of course, I’m also steering the raft to avoid frozen spikes along the riverbank.

It’s hard. It feels like I’m constantly missing my targets and smashing into the sides. Most frustrating — and addictive — of all: as I get better, the game instantly gets harder.

If Akili’s clinical studies are successful, doctors will one day prescribe EVO for ADHD as well as a variety of other disorders affecting so-called executive function — the ability to plan, inhibit actions, and quickly switch between tasks. The game has been part of a dozen clinical trials to date, involving people with ADHD, Alzheimer’s, autism, and depression.

The plan is realistic enough that Big Pharma wants in: Akili has already struck deals with two traditional drug companies, Pfizer and Shire. Within the industry, Martucci says, “there’s definitely a growing receptivity to digital technology.” Here are some gaming accessories reviews that can help people who can’t hear very well or need a better mouse or controller.

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The Verge, October 2014.

No Pain, No Aging

Age brings pain: back pain, eye strain, sore joints, and the like. And pain, too, seems to accelerate aging. Several studies have reported that people with chronic pain have shorter lives than everybody else.

But is the link between pain and aging due to the co-occurance of sickness and decay, or rather to the perception — the feeling — of pain itself?

“If you burn your finger right now, is that going to affect the aging process?” asks Celine Riera, a postdoc in Andrew Dillin’s lab at the University of California, Berkeley. The answer is yes, according a mouse study by Riera appearing today in Cell.

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Only Human, May 2014.