In 2011, Elizabeth Parrish was working in executive administration for a biotech software company in Seattle called RogueSheep.
Now, she is the first person to try to treat what she describes as “biological ageing” – or, as it’s commonly called, getting old.
In just five years, Parrish has not only emerged as a darling of the US biotechnology field but she has launched a non-profit company, Stem Cell Voice, a company called BioTrove Investments, and BioViva, a research company working on genetic therapies to alleviate diseases affiliated with ageing in order to extend life.
Parrish had volunteered herself as the guinea pig for her treatments.
In September, she became the first human trial for therapy that lengthens the telomeres, the protective caps of chromosomes, in her cells. The claim behind the treatment – which has not been verified in any independent studies – is that it creates a biologically younger cells, and creates more of them over time.
Parrish was administered this therapy in a medical clinic in South America in conjunction with another therapy involving a myostatin inhibitor. This promotes muscle growth, and thus reduces sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass as a result of ageing).
The success of the therapies are tested using visual biomarkers, MRIs and a panel of blood and tissue testing and epigenetic testing, all done in third party labs.
Seven months on, Parrish, 45, claims her white blood cells were about 9% longer.
By lengthening the telomeres, she says her biological age has been reduced by the equivalent of 20 years.
This was reported by the Biogerontology Research Foundation — a British organisation headed by biomedical scientist Avi Roy, who is also BioViva’s chief scientific officer.
While it may sound like a breakthrough, there are a number a ways to achieve such as results, such as caloric restriction or mild starving, or upping an exercise program.
Parrish says in an interview with Medium that before the treatment she only had the basics of biology and science in her background, but was passionate about the field.
That’s when she started BioTrove Investments, “to collect money for longevity research,” she says.
“I really thought it would be easy. I thought, everyone is gonna understand THIS, everyone has skin in the game, everyone is going to die for biological aging if they do not die in an accident or from childhood disease.”
During her biotech journey she has faced much skepticism and criticism for her work, but says that’s all part and parcel with being a pioneer.
“There are people always wanting to cause problems, because they want to put the focus on themselves.
“Take a look at Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or other business leaders; they did not have the degrees in what they did for their companies, so I quickly learned to laugh at critical articles.
“Our scientists are excellent scientists, our science advisory board is the best around. I have everything and I have nothing to feel bad about.”
Parrish eventually wants to be able to distribute the cure for ageing for free with the help of governments and insurance providers.
The company is now raising investment to do offshore clinical trials.
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