Staying young

Staying Young

Part 1 Staying Young – BBC Explorations

The human life span may soon be doubled. Some scientists are honing in on a genetic switch to turn off ageing. Others have discovered a hormone which is already producing startling results in the over fifties.

The human life span may soon be doubled. Some scientists are honing in on a genetic switch to turn off ageing. Others have discovered a hormone which is already producing startling results in the over fifties.
In the war against ageing we meet four extraordinary people who are fighting Time on various fronts. Diane, Donald, Debbie and Michael all have strategies to stay young and live longer. It’s a universal desire, and well do almost anything to achieve it, but no-one has yet found the elixir of youth. But now, as this programme reveals, science is unlocking the secrets of ageing.

In New York, fashion designer Diane Gilman believes she has found the answer. Its called human growth hormone. While we’re young and growing, human growth hormone helps the body to build muscle and repair tissue. By middle age, the body stops producing it altogether. At 56 Diane injects herself with enough human growth hormone to recreate the levels she had in her twenties. Her two shots a day cost of over $1,000 a month. Human growth hormone is still undergoing clinical trials, but Diane believes it is money well spent. For her, taking human growth hormone has turned back time. It’s her victory in the age wars.

Donald and Debbie are in good health and live the Californian dream. Yet they take over one hundred pills a day. This is how they’re fighting the age wars – with a complicated mix of vitamins and anti-oxidants. It’s to protect themselves against the ravages of oxygen. Donald and Debbie began their regime over a year ago. In this short time, they’re convinced that anti-oxidants have given them back the energy of their youth.

In London, Michael Young’s weapons arent anti-oxidant pills but a highly restricted vegetarian diet. Michael is 42 years old. He plans to diet for the rest of his life, eating fewer than 1500 calories a day. It seems an unlikely solution but this starvation regime already works for rats and mice. Seventy years ago scientists discovered that halving the diet of a lab rat can double its age. Michael hopes the same is true for humans.

Taking human growth hormone, swallowing over a hundred pills a day, a life-long starvation diet – they all have high risks, and most of us would prefer something less demanding. Could we not simply turn off the genetic switch that makes us grow old? We discover a scientist who believes this is precisely what she can do.

Part 2 Staying Young – BBC Explorations

Part 3 Staying Young – BBC Explorations

Part 4 Staying Young – BBC Explorations

Part 5 Staying Young – BBC Explorations

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