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Can aging be slowed by using gene therapy to make permanent changes to a person’s DNA?
One Seattle-area woman says she has tried exactly that. Her claim has entangled some high-profile American academics in a strange tale of do-it-yourself medicine that involves plane flights to Latin America, an L.A. film crew, and what’s purported to be the first attempt to use gene therapy to forestall normal aging.
Elizabeth Parrish, the 44-year-old CEO of a biotechnology startup called BioViva, says she underwent a gene therapy at an undisclosed location overseas last month, a first step in what she says is a plan to develop treatments for ravages of old age like Alzheimer’s and muscle loss.
“I am patient zero,” she declared during a Q&A on the website Reddit on Sunday. “I have aging as a disease.”
The experiment seems likely to be remembered as either a new low in medical quackery or, perhaps, the unlikely start of an era in which people receive genetic modifications not just to treat disease, but to reverse aging. It also raises ethical questions about how quickly such treatments should be tested in people and whether they ought to be developed outside the scrutiny of regulators. The field of anti-aging research is known for attracting a mix of serious scientists, vitamin entrepreneurs, futurists, and cranks peddling various paths to immortality, including brain freezing.
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