For centuries, the elixir of eternal life – a magic potion to eradicate ills and grant immortality – has been the Holy Grail of medicine.
Now, thanks to a super-mouse that lived a short, but astonishing, life in a US lab, the prospect of developing revolutionary drugs to help us live longer, healthier lives is energising scientists worldwide.
"The race is on to discover drugs and other interventions that will increase human longevity," says Dr João Pedro de Magalhães, a microbiologist and senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease.
But this isn’t just about living longer: it’s about living more of our lives in good health, free from the diseases we accept as an inevitable part of ageing -such as heart disease, dementia and cancer.
"Human beings are already living longer than at any other time in history," says another lead researcher in the field, João Passos, an associate professor of physiology in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at the Mayo Clinic in the US.
"The problem is that we are living longer, but with multiple age-related diseases."
What scientists have come to realise, he told Good Health, is that "the driver of most of the diseases that we experience in old age’ is the ageing of the cells.
"So, if we can target the mechanisms, we may be able to not only cure one disease, but all the different diseases together," he says. "That’s the goal."Daily Mail