London: A scientist who has suggested that adding anti-ageing chemicals known as isotopes to food would give most people an extra ten years of life as agreed to be a living experiment.
Dr Mikhail Shchepirov, a visiting professor at Oxford University claims that adding these would defy the ageing process. Experiments on nematode works with these chemicals have increased lifespan by ten per cent. Pets are the first animals likely to be given these, he forecasts.
Dr Shchepinov suggests, in a report in Chemical & Industry magazine, that a longer life and protection against diseases such as cancer could be obtained by eating steaks, pork or chicken fillets high in the anti-ageing chemicals.
The 41-year-old plans to start eating the compounds within a few months. The treatment makes use of isotopes of carbon and hydrogen – atoms which have a different number of neutrons in their nucleus to other varieties of the element.
The isotopes used are chiefly deuterium – also known as ‘heavy hydrogen’ – which can be harvested from water, and carbon 13, which can be collected from CO2. Both occur naturally.
The theories might seem like science fiction, but the Russian academic has founded a company called Retrotrope to commercialise them and is seeking financial backers.
His research has also won support from respected academics on both sides of the Atlantic.
He said: ‘The isotopes are readily available in the water or the atmosphere. The processing is expensive at the moment, however given increased scale it could be done much more cheaply.’
Asked about the effect of feeding these elements to the nematode worms, Dr Shchepinov added: ‘We found life extension.’
He said the treatment is based on the idea that while the body can create key amino acids – which combine to form proteins in the body – it needs to absorb others from food.
It is believed the building blocks of these amino acids can be strengthened through the addition of an isotope such as deuterium. This protects cells against the damage from free radicals which is associated with ageing.
Dr Shchepinov said: ‘We don’t have to be consuming the isotopes as white powder. If you take a pig and feed those things to a pig, all you need to do is consume the pig in the normal fashion.’
He suggested the technology could first be tried in the pet food market. ‘There are several issues to be addressed, but I would say it would be possible within three years,’ he said.
‘As soon as we have the first compounds chemically made I am going to start having them myself. Hopefully within a few months.’
Charles Cantor, professor of biomechanical engineering at Boston University, said: ‘The idea of selectively using heavy natural isotopes to suppress oxidative damage is fundamentally and extremely clever.
‘If this is borne out by further experiments, the implications are profound.’