Obnoxiously wealthy Saudi Arabia is trying to prove that money can buy everything after all, pouring $1 billion a year into finding ways to slow the effects of ageing. The Gulf state’s royal family has launched a non-profit organization that would fund scientists to understand the underlying causes of aging and how to alleviate them using drugs, according to MIT Technology Review.
The Hevolution Foundation will look at biotechnology that could extend the number of years people can enjoy a healthy lifespan and delay the onset of certain diseases like diabetes or heart disease. There aren’t many details about the work of the foundation yet, but it was mentioned during several scientific conferences, according to MIT Technology Review.
Nir Barzilai, the founding director of the Institute for Aging Research, who claims to have discovered a longevity gene in humans that is related to healthy aging and longevity of human life. Barzilai sought funding for his TAME studytargeting aging with Metformin, a drug for type 2 diabetes. Preliminary studies of metformin on diabetics showed a potential correlation between the drug and possible anti-aging compounds that could have caused the subjects to live longer than expected.
The TAME trial has been called the first study of a drug to slow aging in humans, as the drug allegedly alters the aging process inside cells. A great request, but TAME struggled to find the funding to support their request. However, MIT Technology Review is also reporting that in April, Barzilai told an audience in London that Hevolution had agreed to fund a third of its cost
So why is the oil-rich nation potentially funding the trial of anti-aging drugs? The people of Saudi Arabia suffer from high rates of obesity and diabetes, brought on by an inactive lifestyle and an unusually rich diet. Saudi Arabia ranks seventh in the world for the rate of diabetes. Aabout 7 million of the Saudi population are diabetic and about 3 million have pre-diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. A study 2021 also revealed that Saudi Arabia’s aging population will increase dramatically in the coming decades, with people in the Gulf state suffering from high rates of frailty or physiological decline.
Even if they were to discover the fountain of youth, or rather fund it, Saudi Arabia would still need to do a lot more to erase its controversial history marred by a bloody record of human rights.