A DRUG that reverses ageing and could help astronauts travel to Mars may be on the market in three years, scientists claim.
Two biotech companies hope to begin trials of the drug, which promotes DNA repair, on patients in the next six months.
Researchers found that the drug, nicotinamide mononucleotide, had a dramatic rejuvenating effect on the ageing process in mice.
Lead scientist Prof David Sinclair said: ‘The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice, after just one week of treatment.
‘This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that’s perhaps only three to five years away from being on the market.’
The treatment boosts levels of NAD+, a chemical present in every cell of the body which helps regulate protein interactions that control DNA repair . DNA damage is believed to be a major driver of natural ageing and a primary cause of cancer. Levels of NAD+ naturally decline with age.
The research by the University of New South Wales in Australia and Harvard Medical School in the US has interested Nasa.
The space agency is looking for ways of shielding astronauts from the effects of radiation during extended space travel, including flights to Mars.
High levels of cosmic radiation mean the chances of unprotected astronauts developing cancer could approach 100 per cent.
The new drug could also protect frequent flyers from radiation on passenger jets and combat the accelerated ageing seen in childhood cancer survivors.