One of the holy grails of medical research is to find a treatment that reverses aging, the idea being that human lifespans can be extended as well as people's health. According to Science Daily, a group of researchers at the University of New South Wales may have stumbled upon just such a treatment, with added benefit for astronauts exposed to radiation on long space missions and people whose DNA have been compromised as the result of childhood cancers.

The body has the natural ability to repair DNA that has been damaged, say by exposure to the sun.

However, as we age, that ability begins to decline. Our bodies get weaker, and we are more prone to diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.

The researchers noted that a metabolic called NAD+ plays a critical role in DNA repair. They developed an NAD+ booster called NMN that restores the ability to repair DNA in mice, to the extent that the cells in aged rodents were the same as those of younger ones.

Human trails begin in six months with the possibility that the treatment will be available in a clinical setting in three to five years.

What happens next is a matter for conjecture.

Let us suppose that we can take a shot or pill periodically that reverses the effects of aging, causing us to not only live longer but in greater health? Fewer people will get cancer and other ailments of old age. The effects on the cost health care and quality of life would be beyond evaluation.

NASA is interested in the NAD+ booster because it would help astronauts survive exposure to cosmic background radiation on long space voyages, such as to Mars.

Shielding space explorers from radiation is a difficult engineering problem. A combination of shields and medical treatment may be just the trick to opening up the solar system to human exploration.

People who survive childhood cancers often find that their ability to repair DNA has been compromised, which can result in diseases of old age starting in their 40s. NMN could be the medication that restores that ability, giving such patients longer, healthier lives.

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