Forever young

18.07.15: SCIENCE HAS found a way to turn back the clock with a drug that significantly delays the ageing process.

Elixir works by targeting what are known as "advanced glycolisation end-products", or Age.

Glycolisation has been described by scientists as a slow-motion form of cooking. It is the process that makes the skin lose its elasticity, arteries harden and the lens of the eye form cataracts ­ in short, all the horrible slowing down and stiffening up that comes with ageing.

"One of the reasons we all begin to freeze up as we get older is what's called 'cross-linking'," says Professor Patrick Wall of the American biotech firm Alteon, which has been researching and developing Elixir for nearly 20 years.

"Proteins begin to bind almost randomly with other proteins. Sugars are involved ­ hence the 'glyco' bit ­ which is why diabetics, who have trouble with sugar, are especially vulnerable to these debilitating clogging-up processes."

Elixir is able to break down these links, restoring youthful flexibility.

Just who is going to be eligible for the drug is not yet certain but it seems likely to be those at risk of serious disease.

For those not lucky enough to lay their hands on the new product, advice comes from 80-year-old Dr Michael Perrin of the Optimal Ageing Clinic in Harley Street: "The best way to stay youthful is to eat properly, exercise regularly and have the right combination of hormones and antioxidants for your particular genes."

The Elixir web site's popularity is second only to that of the frequently visited International Space Station.

Millions of people over 40 years old have flooded the site with advance orders for the new drug, which analysts believe will put the company among the world's top 10. JB