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In the last few years, we have begun learning how to optimize our health. We have had breakthroughs in our understanding of the massive benefits of sleep. We’re realizing that daily exercise switches on at least 10 healthy pathways. We understand that we used to eat far too much sugar, in our mistaken efforts to cut fat from our diet. This is great news for the individual. We are confident that we now have the tools to help people live healthily into their 90s.

However, since 2015 in places such as the USA and the UK, population trends of increasing longevity have stuttered, and life expectancy has disturbingly shortened. The most logical reason for this is that, in our ever-racing digital world, many of us live under more and more stress, we fall way short of our eight hours of sleep and, as a result, our tired brains crave junk food and avoid exercise. A doctor can treat illnesses such as hypertension, but only we can optimize our health.

I would like to share two important breakthroughs that have both impressed and excited me for the future:

1. Stem cells

For the last 10 years, we have been successfully putting stem cells into joints, allowing arthritic knees to function once again. However, scientists are discovering important new longevity benefits for stem cells.

Once we reach 100, we no longer run the risk of heart attacks and cancer, but rather tend to die from “old age”. In looking at the brains of old mice who were aging rapidly, scientists discovered that a central part of the brain was failing. It’s called the hypothalamus, and it is the communicator between the brain and the body. This results in messages from the brain to the body becoming scrambled, causing the organs to fail. The scientists then injected stem cells into the brains of the aging rats.

The result was that the hypothalamus rejuvenated, the brain-body messaging was restored, and the rats lived healthier and longer (Zhang Y et al. “Hypothalamic stem cells control aging speed partly through exosomal miRNAs”. Nature 2017: 548: 52–7). This still needs to be replicated in humans, but it’s the first experiment to show how an aging brain drives the aging process in the body, and how stem-cell replacement could reverse this.

2. Gene therapy health | Longevity LIVE

For quite a few years we have been able to test our genes to see which are problematic. Now scientists are experimenting with taking aberrant genes and fixing them. But to do that they need to get new DNA into the cells – cut out the bad DNA and insert the new DNA. This is no easy task. Undeterred, scientists have used viruses to carry DNA to the cells in the body they want to alter. These viruses are called “vectors”, as they are messengers that can carry specific genes to targeted cells.

In a study earlier this year, scientists injected these vector viruses into the eyes of mice suffering from macular degeneration. These viruses released the genetic load they were carrying into dormant cells of the mouse eyes, which converted those cells into light-receptor cells and reversed the macular degeneration (Berry MH et al. “Restoration of high-sensitivity and adapting vision with a cone opsin”. Nature Comms 2019: 10: 1221). This is a stunning result, and it’s just a matter of time before other gene-specific illnesses, such as cystic fibrosis, are treated in the same way.

It’s up to us to direct our health. We already have the tools to allow us to live healthily into our 90s. Those who are making the healthy choices today stand to benefit the most from an exciting avalanche of treatments in the future.

Who is the author?

Dr. Duncan Carmichael is a medical doctor and founder of the Institute of Healthy Aging (IHASA).

Want to know more about how to improve your health?

People sometimes call turmeric Indian saffron or the golden spice. Turmeric is a tall plant from Asia and Central America well known for its numerous health benefits. All over the world, people use its bright yellow color as a dye. The ground roots of the plant are what turmeric available on shopping shelves is made of. The ground turmeric can also be found in curry powder, as well as some teas as well as powders.

Among its various nutrients, turmeric also contains compounds with medicinal properties, the most notable curcuminoids. Of these compounds, the most important is curcumin. Curcumin is the active ingredient found in turmeric that will help provide a healthy and productive 2020. Click on the link to find out how you can use turmeric to defy aging for the rest of 2020.


Berry, M.H., Holt, A., Salari, A., Vet, J., Visel, M., Levitz, J., Aghi, K., Gaub, B.M., Sivyer, B., Flannery, J.G., Isacoff, E.G. 2019. Nature Comms. 10(1):1221. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-09124-x.

Zhang, Y., Kim, M.N., Baosen, J., Zuniga-Hertz J.P., Han, C., Cai, D.  2017. Hypothalamic stem cells control aging speed partly through exosomal miRNAs. Nature. 548: 52–7 doi: 10.1038/nature23282


Dr. Duncan Carmichael

Dr. Duncan Carmichael is a medical doctor with 25 years of experience, the founder of the Institute of Healthy Aging (IHASA) in Cape Town, and the author of the acclaimed book Younger for Longer: How You Can Slow the Ageing Process and Stay Healthy for Life.

Duncan is a regular speaker and lecturer at conferences on aesthetic and anti-aging medicine in South Africa and abroad. He qualified as a doctor in South Africa and then trained further in Europe where he studied nutrition, hormone balancing and aesthetic medicine.

Younger for Longer (‘Revelatory and accessible’ – The Sunday Post) was published in 2018 through Jonathan Ball, and is available from your favourite bookstores and through and on Amazon.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.