Life Extension turns to AI program to mine data for ingredients in new product
Dr Michael Smith, senior health scientist for Life Extension, said during an interview at the Expo West trade show in Anaheim, CA that the core idea around the first supplement in the line, Ageless Cell, is to interrupt the process of cellular senescence. It’s the basic process in aging, he said.
“Research shows that when cells approach senescence, when it is no longer healthy enough to replicate, the body essentially tells the cell to just hang out until it dies. But we have found that those cells are still metabolically active in that last phase and they still release pro-inflammatory compounds,” he said. Those individual cells in tissues that start to release this rising tide of inflammatory compounds are what contribute to the decline in function in those same tissues, Dr Smith said. Joints get stiff, muscles weaken, bones become porous, neurons don’t communicate as well as they once did. A similar cascade happens with severe trauma when trillions of cells die all at once and flood the body with harmful compounds. In the case of aging, Dr Smith said, the process is slower and more insidious, but not different in kind.
“Aging is a complex process and at the center of it is this senescent cell. We are focusing on presenescent cells, to find nutrients that can turn back the clock on the cellular level and delay the point where the cell can no longer replicate,” Dr Smith said.
The question then becomes, what to do about it? Andrew Swick, PhD, senior vice president of product development and scientific affairs for Life Extension said his company turned to Insilico Medicine and what is termed its ‘proprietary deep learning technology’ to identify nutrients that effectively target the cellular processes of interest in a way that could forestall senescence. The technology is an artificial intelligence platform that can quickly glean data from mountains of research studies to identify dietary ingredients that affect the key end points.
“Clinical aging studies are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to perform at this time. Our collaboration with Insilco Medicine has allowed us to develop geroprotective formulations by using artificial intelligence to study very large data sets,” he said.
Rapid identification of compounds
Dr Smith said that doing the same work by hand via a conventional literature search would have taken many months, if not years, assuming it was successful at all. The underlying methodology Insilico used to identify what nutrients and end points to look for is called Aging.AI 2.0. It was introduced in a research paper published in late 2016 in the journal Aging. “In this study, we designed a modular ensemble of 21 deep neural networks (DNNs) of varying depth, structure and optimization to predict human chronological age using a basic blood test,” the researchers wrote. “The ensemble approach may facilitate integration of multi-modal data linked to chronological age and sex that may lead to simple, minimally invasive, and affordable methods of tracking integrated biomarkers of aging in humans and performing cross-species feature importance analysis,” they concluded.
"Deep Learning with no doubt has a huge potential in healthcare, but unfortunately, very few groups are applying it to aging research. Aging is one of the most complex and multifactorial processes killing millions every year and causing more suffering than any other known disease. We are developing deep integrated biomarkers of aging that incorporate blood biochemistry, transcriptomics and even imaging data to be able to track the effectiveness of the various interventions we are developing,” said Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, CEO of Insilico Medicine.
Using the Insilico methodology, Dr. Smith said four key nutrients were identified for the Ageless Cell product. They are: N-acetyl-L-cysteine, a green tea extract standardized to 45% EGCG, myricetin from a Myrica cerifera (common name myrtle) bark and leaf extract and gamma tocotrienol from a natural tocotrienol/tocopherol complex. Dr. Smith said this is just the tip of the iceberg; the AI program has identified dozens of additional dietary ingredients that could be useful in healthy aging formulations.
“This is going to be a huge movement in the longevity field,” Dr. Smith said.