However, participants will be required to go to a small clinic in Cartagena, Colombia, to participate, which the Kansas-based company said was “the easiest” site among eight different countries it looked into, calling it the “path of least resistance.”
In a press release, a company executive said traditional clinical trials in the U.S. take “years and millions — or even billions — of dollars.”
The treatment would be delivered intravascularly and participants will be monitored over the course of a year, according to the company's website. Gene therapy treatments are intended to be one-off treatments, attacking the problem at its source.
The technology focuses on lengthening telomeres, which are structures found at the end of chromosomes. Their main function is to protect DNA during cell division.
Every time a cell divides, a part of the telomere is lost – until it becomes too short and the cell dies. Some believe that as cells age, so does the body.
Telomerase is an enzyme that lengthens telomeres and thus prevents the cell from dying.
Libella’s technology rebuilds the ends of telomeres, and thereby affects the aging process.
“I know what we’re trying to do sounds like science fiction, but I believe it’s a science reality,” Jeff Mathis, CEO of Libella Gene Therapeutics, said in an interview with OneZero.
The treatment may potentially treat other diseases, like cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Not everyone, however, agrees that lengthening telomeres will have any effect on the aging process. For example, researchers at the University of Utah were unable to conclude whether shorter telomeres were simply a sign of aging or actually a contributor to the process.
Dr. Andrew Stern, who is one of the founders of Libella Gene Therapeutics, was also one of the principal discoverers of portions of human telomerase.
In order to be eligible for the trial, individuals must be 45 years or older. So far the company has recruited two people, according to the OneZero interview published on Medium.
The study will look into the change in the length of telomeres, and into the “incidence of serious adverse events.”
The FDA declined to comment specifically on Libella Gene Therapeutics and its decision to hold its trial outside of the U.S. It does, however, accept foreign clinical data and results so long as certain conditions are met.
A spokesperson for Libella Gene Therapeutics did not return FOX Business’ request for comment.