Exploring the Frontiers of Anti-Aging Medicine: An Interview with Dr. Marios Kyriazis
By David Jay Brown
Marios Kyriazis, M.D., is both a clinician and a researcher in the field of anti-aging medicine. He has made significant contributions in the science and application of anti-aging medicine, and he is considered one of Britain’s leading longevity specialists. Dr. Kyriazis is one of the few world’s experts on the subject of how carnosine affects the aging process. His research into the effects of this remarkable amino acid dipeptide has revealed how it can offer a number of unique and substantial health benefits.
Q: What do you think are the primary causes of aging?
Dr. Kyriazis: When I think about the primary causes of aging I divide them into two groups—fifty percent genetic and fifty percent environmental. From the environment we get free radicals, glycosylation, and hormonal changes. At the moment I don’t think there is anything that we can do about the genetic part, but we can of course influence the environmental part of aging. So I am working in clinical medicine to offer ways of counteracting the environmental causes, or the environmental basis of aging.
Q: What do you think are currently the best ways to slow down or reverse, the aging process and extend the human life span?
Dr. Kyriazis: I offer a combination of different therapies affecting the entire body. For example, I recommend antioxidants and anti-glycator drugs or supplements. Apart from the ordinary vitamins and nutrients, I recommend carnosine, DHEA, and other hormones, depending upon whether the individual is deficient in those hormones or not. I also recommend a nutritional lifestyle and exercise—but not ordinary exercise. It’s a combination of different unusual exercises (which I discuss in my book The Anti-Aging Plan) plus mental and sensory exercises.
Q: Can you talk a little about carnosine’s anti-glycosylation effect, and how it protects the body from dangerous cross-linked, oxidized proteins?
Dr. Kyriazis: Everybody thinks that free radicals and oxidation are the main causes of aging, but there’s another important one, which is glycosylation, and this happens all the time. It is due to glucose or other molecules attaching to proteins. This causes cross-linking and “advanced glycosylation end-products” or AGEs. I would say that this causes more damage to the body than free radicals, and carnosine prevents this damage in different ways.
First of all, it prevents free radical attacks because it’s an antioxidant. But it is also an anti-glycosylator. In other words, it prevents the proteins from being cross-linked. If two proteins that are not supposed to attach to each other, become attached and combine together, then they become useless. That’s what happens in cross-linking, and carnosine prevents that. Carnosine is like a shield that protects proteins. So when two proteins come together they don’t attach to each other. They remain free to function normally.
So the first stage is that carnosine prevents glycosylation. The second stage is that if glycosylation has already happened, if the two proteins have become cross-linked, carnosine will facilitate the removal of these useless proteins. Actually, our body is trying to eliminate abnormal proteins all the time, but with aging this rate of elimination slows down. Therefore we have an accumulation of abnormal proteins. But carnosine speeds up the rate of elimination, so all the junk material we have in our body gets eliminated quicker.
There is also some evidence that carnosine can actually break the existing bonds between the two cross-linked proteins. So if the proteins have become attached to each other, and they are cross-linked, in some circumstances carnosine can break the bond and allow them to be free again, and to function normally. So carnosine has three different benefits in addition to being an antioxidant.
Q: What are your thoughts about using N-Acetylcarnosine eye drops—which breakdown into carnosine in the eye—as a way to protect the health of one’s eyes?
Dr. Kyriazis: This is also a very promising development. I was involved with advising the different researchers at the companies that are now marketing acetylcarnosine. The things that carnosine does as a tablet doesn’t work as well as when it is used as an eyedrop. But acetylcarnosine as an eyedrop is quite resistant to the enzymatic processes that break down carnosine. Carnosine is broken down by the enzyme carnosinase, and if we give carnosine eye drops it would soon break down before it can have a chance to work properly in the eye. But acetylcarnosine is resistant to carnosinase, therefore it is not easily broken down in the eye, and it remains around to produce its effects. But acetylcarnosine as a capsule or a tablet in the body is not as effective as simple carnosine in tablet form. So we have this difference between the two. One is effective as a tablet but not as an eyedrop. The other one is effective as an eyedrop but not as a tablet. This is due to the enzyme carnosinase in the eye, which breaks carnosine down easily.
Q: What sort of benefit does acetylcarnosine have on the eyes?
Dr. Kyriazis: It helps the eye in different ways. Most importantly, acetylcarnosine helps patients who have cataracts. There’s quite a lot of research showing that carnosine not only prevents the formation of cataracts, but most importantly, it reverses existing cataracts as well. So it can be used as a treatment for existing cataracts, and one can actually avoid the need for an operation. This is something that not many people know. But I think it’s a very good development, and now it’s being promoted all over the world. I was in Russia a few days ago where we had a seminar examining the beneficial effects of acetylcarnosine on cataracts. There are also benefits with other eye diseases. For example, it helps people who suffer from glaucoma or macular degeneration. It also helps people who wear contact lenses, or people who work in front of the computer and get tired eyes or itchy sore eyes. It has been shown that acetylcarnosine eyedrops work very well to prevent all these eye conditions.
Q: What are some of the new anti-aging treatments that you foresee coming along in the near future?
Dr. Kyriazis: I think one of the most promising is a crosslink breaker. It’s a drug called Alagebrium, and it’s manufactured by Alteon Corporation in the States. This has been shown to actually revert age-related damage—not only prevent it, but revert it, because it breaks existing bonds between the crosslinked proteins. This has been used now in reverting blood pressure, because glycosylation causes thickening of the arteries, and thickened arteries result in high blood pressure. Because this drug reverses glycosylation that means it also reverses blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke—before the damage happens. But it is mainly used for reversing and curing blood pressure—not just masking symptoms, but actually curing blood pressure. So that’s one drug.
We have other therapies with stem cells, which are also commercially available. They cost quite a lot of money, but they are becoming available, both in the States and in other parts of the world. It’s actual stem cells by injection, like the new treatment for wrinkles called Isolagen. This is based on stem cell research, on taking blood from your own body, or cells from inside your mouth, growing them, and then reinjecting them into the body to reverse wrinkles.
So basically there are quite a few things on the horizon which would become not only available but also accessible to many people, because they won’t be as expensive as they are now.