American woman becomes biologically younger after receiving gene therapies.
In September 2015, then 44-year-old CEO of BioViva USA Inc. Elizabeth Parrish underwent two of her own company’s experimental gene therapies: one to guard against loss of muscle mass associated with aging, another to thwart stem cell diminution that causes diverse age-related diseases.
The treatment was originally proposed to establish the safety of the latest generation of gene therapies. But if early data is correct, it is already the world’s first positive outcome involving telomere lengthening by gene therapy in a human being. Gene therapy has been used to lengthen telomeres before in cultured cells and in mice, but never successfully before in a human patient.
Telomeres are short segments of DNA which surround the ends of every chromosome, acting as shields against wear and tear. They decrease in length with every cell division, ultimately becoming too short to protect the chromosome, causing the cell to breakdown and the body to age.
In September 2015, telomere data extracted from Parrish’s white blood cells by SpectraCell’s specialized clinical testing laboratory in Houston, Texas, immediately before therapies were administered, showed that Parrish’s telomeres were unusually short for her age, leaving her susceptible to age-related diseases earlier in life.
In March 2016, the same tests performed a second time by SpectraCell revealed that her telomeres had lengthened by approximately 20 years, from 6.71kb to 7.33kb, suggesting that Parrish’s white blood cells (leukocytes) have become biologically younger. These findings were independently confirmed by the Brussels-based non-profit HEALES (HEalthy Life Extension Company), and the Biogerontology Research Foundation, a UK-based charity committed to combating age-related diseases.
Parrish’s response: “Current therapeutics offer only marginal benefits for people suffering from diseases of aging. Additionally, lifestyle modification has limited impact for treating these diseases. Advances in biotechnology is the best solution, and if these results are anywhere near accurate, we’ve made history”, Parrish said.
BioViva will continue to examine Parrish’s blood for months and years to come. In the meantime, BioViva will begin testing new gene therapies and combination gene therapies to repair age related damage. Time will tell whether the success in leukocytes can be developed for other tissues and organs, and repeated in future patients. Presently, all the answers reside in the cells of Elizabeth Parrish, “patient zero” of restorative gene therapy.
Since her first gene therapy injections, BioViva has attracted global interest from both the scientific and investment communities. Recently, BioViva became a portfolio company of Deep Knowledge Life Sciences (DKLS), a London-based investment fund which aims to fast-track production of biotechnologies for healthy longevity.
Dmitry Kaminskiy, founding partner of DKLS, observed, “BioViva has the potential to create breakthroughs in human gene therapy research, while leapfrogging companies in the biotech market.”