In March of 1513, Juan Ponce de León set sail with three ships. In April, he landed where no Spaniard had been before. He called the land Florida. While some believe he was sent to find slaves and gold, others say he was searching for the Fountain of Youth, a magic fountain that made the old young again.
Many historians believe that Ponce de León’s famous search for the Fountain is a myth. But others believe that he did search for it, at least in passing. They say he did it for his health and glory, or for King Ferdinand, who had recently married a woman 35 years his junior.
Tales of heroes searching for the Fountain of Youth don’t end with Ponce de León. Alexander the Great was said to have searched to find the magical waters. And similar legends cropped up all over the world throughout history.
BioViva CEO, Elizabeth Parrish, is searching for her own fountain of youth based on science, not myth. She thinks it is our nature to remain young. In fact, she believes that aging is a disease, and her company is looking for the cure.
According to Parrish, her company has successfully used gene therapy to reverse telomere shortening. Telomere shortening is what leads to aging on a cellular level. Since testing this technique on humans could not be done legally in the United States, Parrish tested it on herself in Colombia. As patient zero, she says she became the first human to be successfully rejuvenated by gene therapy. BioViva claims Parrish’s white blood cells “have become biologically younger.”
The experimental treatments used by BioViva are based on science. In fact, similar telomere treatments of mice have shown significant increases in average lifespan. But that doesn’t mean that it will work in humans, and many scientists are skeptical of BioViva’s claims that it worked for Parrish. A number of explanations have been offered as to why their findings might be hogwash. And BioViva has not provided any details showing that the findings were accurate or reproducible, adding to their doubt.
Perhaps it’s human nature to seek immortality. Or perhaps Parrish is right and immortality itself is human nature. Whatever the case, it’s clear that life is a gift that we hold dear. After all, Ponce de León and Parrish risked life and limb to extend it.