A paper published in Cell has taken the scientific world by storm. Its premise is so transformational, it’s being discussed by everyone from nutritional biologists to stem cell scientists. Investors and life extension advocates also have good reason to take note.
The title is, “Fasting-Mimicking Diet Promotes Ngn3-Driven β-Cell Regeneration to Reverse Diabetes.” In plain terms, it means that a specific, temporary low-calorie diet activates pre-natal gene codes to grow beta or β-cells.
If the authors are correct, this could have a profound impact on your health, life span… and bank account.
The Benefits of the Fasting-Mimicking Diet
Diabetics know all too well that beta cells don’t regenerate once they’ve died. Once the genetic code that built your pancreas shuts down, the only way to replace beta cells is a costly surgical transplantation.
At least, that’s what we thought until now. This paper indicates that the genetic “developmental” codes that were active in the womb can be reactivated. The implications of this are staggering.
I've written at length about the fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) in Tech Digest (subscribe here for free). It was developed by the director of the USC Longevity Institute Valter Longo, PhD. Longo created a short regimen of relatively severe calorie restriction after studying many forms of fasting.
In animal trials, FMD has been shown to significantly reduce disease rates, including cancer. It has also been shown to increase health spans. Human trials would be long and costly, but the same improvements in biomarkers can be seen across species.
Our ancestors routinely experienced cycles of famine and feast. Research shows that FMD seems to activate ancient genetic adaptations to these cycles.
The benefits of FMD extend beyond weight loss. FMD triggers prolonged improvements in health. This includes improved blood pressure and glucose levels.
FMD also improves bone density while selectively removing belly or interstitial fat. And it does this without muscle loss. This is pretty much a miracle especially for older people who do strength training for health reasons.
For clear legal reasons, Longo is saying “Do not try this at home,” (though my nutritional biologist wife and I do). But you might want to check out L-Nutra’s prepackaged FMD foods. Longo chairs the L-Nutra board and donates his profits to further research.
Here’s how FMD works
Though FMD’s ability to improve health is tremendous, I think the real news is how it does it. The paper states, “In human type 1 diabetes pancreatic islets, fasting conditions reduce PKA and mTOR activity and induce Sox2 and Ngn3 expression and insulin production.” This is exciting news.
So what happens in mice that were tested? The papers states that mice utilize developmental genetic programs to grow the β cells that store and control insulin. It appears this happens in humans too.
The paper suggests that “lineage reprogramming” occurs. That means that cells’ genetic profiles change to become other types of cells. In this case, they become functional β cells.
This is great news for diabetics, but it’s important for other reasons as well.
The bigger news is that we may turn on pre-natal developmental genetic programs to heal hearts, brains, kidneys, eyes, joints, and more.
Promising Drugs and Biotech Companies
Might there be a drug or drugs that could induce this sort of genetic reprogramming of adult cells? In fact, we think that there are.
The study speculates that “the effect of the FMD on pancreatic regeneration in type-1 diabetics could be mimicked or enhanced by pharmacological inhibition of the (mTOR and PKA) pathways.”
One drug Longo used for that purpose is rapamycin. I discussed this drug last week in an article about Mount Tam Biotechnologies in Tech Digest (subscribe here for free).
Another approach to reactivating these embryonic gene programs is being developed by Michael West, PhD, co-CEO of BioTime (*see disclosure below). I’ve been following his work on Induced Tissue Regeneration (ITR) for quite some time.
I’m convinced that together, these are pieces of a scientific breakthrough that will change everything we think we know about medicine, health, and the human life span.
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*Disclosure: The editors or principals of Mauldin Economics have a position in this security. They have no plans to sell their position at this time. There is an ethics policy in place that specifies subscribers must receive advance notice should the editors or principals intend to sell.
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