Aging could be a thing of the past, if gene therapy has anything to do with it. Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of firm BioViva, claims she is the first human to be “successfully rejuvenated by gene therapy.”

The woman from Seattle has received two experimental therapies: one to protect against loss of muscle mass with age, and another to battle stem cell depletion responsible for diverse age-related diseases and infirmities.

Self-treatment, which was ongoing for six months, has lengthened her telomeres, which are short segments of DNA that cap the ends of every chromosome, acting as "buffers" against wear and tear. The 44-year-old Parrish explains the benefits of this controversial treatment.

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Why have you decided to undergo gene therapy?

I wanted to prove that gene therapy is safe. I wanted to prove that expressing telomerase via gene therapy is safe in humans and see what data we could get. Also, I wanted to treat my own biological aging. 

How long did the therapy last?

Gene therapy is either a series of injections or it’s administered intravenously. An IV drip can last hours but it’s not painful. 

What effect has it actually had on you?

My white blood cells show an increase in telomere length.

How does it feel to be the first human to be successfully rejuvenated by gene therapy?

I will feel great when we achieve full restoration. So far this is one small, but necessary step. 

What are the obstacles that anti-aging gene therapy is facing?

The wording anti-aging is rarely used anymore. We focus on restorative therapies. Because “anti-aging” has too many bad associations with therapies and pills that do not work. Biological aging is not considered a disease. It is hard to treat something with no medical code. As a way around this, we will treat aging diseases and try to get some movement on those biomarkers, while we build biomarkers for aging that are universally accepted.

Do you think this type of therapy will be available for everyone in the future?

Yes, absolutely. BioViva’s goal is to bring a safe and affordable therapy to the world.

What potential does gene therapy have?

Gene therapy and gene editing have the potential to cure both monogenic and congenital diseases and acquired diseases such as aging. 

What’s next?

We will see many advances in gene therapy and the sky is the limit, from basic adjustments and protein up regulation to interfacing with future biotechnology.

— By Dmitry Belyaev