Ageless/Timeless athletes typically use nutrition and exercise to achieve life extension results. Dr. Bill Andrews is no exception but barring one major distinction: This molecular genetics researcher is using the laboratory to find the secret to increasing the life of man at the cellular level.
Andrews is the president, CEO, and founder of Sierra Sciences, LLC., located in Reno, Nevada. His company is dedicated to finding a cure for aging.
“Since I was ten years old, I've been obsessed with trying to live as long as I can,” said Andrews. “It's an idea my father put in my head when I was ten, because he was very interested, and still is very interested, in living as long as he can and healthy as long as he can.”
Andrews’ educational background and subsequent research led him and his team to discover telomerase. He explains that telomeres are the very tips of chromosomes, like caps on a shoelace.
“Every time our cells divide, the telomeres get a little bit shorter. And we know that when the caps on our shoelaces get really short, our shoelaces start to fall apart, and the same is true for our chromosomes when our telomeres get really short,” said Andrews, adding that this is true for every cell in our body save for reproductive cells.
Twenty years ago, Andrews was doing research in Geron Corporation in Medlow Park, California, trying to figure out why it was that the reproductive cells didn't have telomere shortening.
“I ended up discovering that they produce an enzyme called telomerase. We took that enzyme and put it into other cells of the body—the cells now are grown in a petri dish—and we were able to show that they not only stopped aging, but actually their aging was reversed; they became younger,” explained Andrews.
This discovery would result in Andrews receiving second place in the "National Inventor of the Year" in 1997, awarded by the Intellectual Property Owners Association.
His findings might have remarkable implications relative to the aging process.
“Now scientists at Harvard have repeated that same experiment with mice. When the mice got really short telomeres and they were really old, they then caused the production of telomerase in all the mouse cells, lengthening the telomeres and the mice actually became younger. First time in the history of the planet that's ever been really done. So I think that we're pretty close to being able to do that with humans,” explained Andrews.
Andrews is not only a remarkable scientist but also a phenomenal athlete. As a child, his parents never dissuaded him from running.
“As a kid, I would run everywhere,” said Andrews.
His father entered him and his twin brother in a mile-long race when they were ten years old. The brothers tied and almost won the race. Andrews continued to compete in track and cross country during high school and also participated in non-conventional athletics outside of school.
“I was a very competitive water skier. I actually used to hold the world speed record for barefoot water skiing. I was also an endurance horseback rider. I was always into hiking and stuff like that. I was very competitive in wind surfing, snow skiing, those kind of things,” said Andrews.
Andrews has never stopped running and has emerged as an ultra-marathon runner.
Though ultra-marathon events can be based upon distance or length of time run, the ultra-marathon runs range from 50 kilometres (31.069 mi) to 100 miles (160.9344 km).
In 2012, Andrews became the oldest individual to run and finish a grueling ultra-marathon in the Himalayan Mountains at age 60. Andrews explained that the marathon was 138 miles nonstop at an elevation of 18,000 feet. It took him 51 hours to complete the the run.
“That was all day, all night, all day, all night, and three more hours. You can stop if you want. It's just that it is a race, and so you want to go as fast as you can.”
One of his greatest obstacles came about 97 miles into the race; it was the lowest altitude of the race at 11,000 feet.
“I just started feeling weak. I was reduced to a walk, but I didn't know what was going on, and so I stopped and said that I wanted a doctor to check me out,” Andrews recalled. “Somebody drove 40 miles to get a doctor and bring him back while I just stayed there. The doctor checked me out and said I was fine, and I got up and finished the race,” said Andrews, adding that he was down for two hours.
Andrews explained that qualifying for this race may be as difficult as running the course. Only eleven runners were selected to compete. He placed fifth and would have placed even higher if he had not had medical concerns.
His training for these races involves a great deal of preparation. For the Himalayan race, Andrews spent a great deal of time developing his lung capacity. He used a product from Alto Labs to enhance his breathing.
“It's a hand-held device. You hold it. You breathe into it like, an hour a day. It's kind of like a re-breather that pilots will use that fly planes at high altitudes. By the time I spent three months breathing in that thing for an hour a day. Shoot,
I could have run to the top of Mount Everest without any problems!” said Andrews.
Obviously, training for ultra-marathons requires more than breathing into an apparatus. Andrews has a very structured workout program that he employs.
“When I'm really super training, it's pretty much about 70-miles-a-week running,” said Andrews.
He went on to explain that he has a preferred system to knock out the weekly miles, opting for five miles on Monday, eight on Tuesday, fifteen on Wednesday, and five on Thursday.
“I take Fridays off, and then, on Saturday I run 25 miles. On Sundays, I run 15 miles. Add that up, I think it's about 72 miles,” he said.
Andrews’ running directly relates to his passion for life-extension. According to Andrews, “there's been several scientific studies published in scientific peer-reviewed journals showing the more intense your endurance, the longer your telomeres.”
“Not necessarily the really fast runners, but the people that are consistent and do a lot of distance. And, you know, kind of just people that keep it fun. They end up having longer telomeres, which would predict that their lifespan and health span would be longer than normal,” he explains.
Andrew notes that studies have not been performed to establish that ultra-marathon runners live longer. He points out that such runners are rare breeds and the sport has recently grown in popularity. Perhaps such studies will be performed in the future.
Andrews also uses supplements to enhance his quest for an extended life, taking everything that protects his telomeres. This regimen includes Product B from Isagenix, Ageless Essentials from Isagenix that includes Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and antioxidants.
“All three of those have been shown in scientifically peer-reviewed journals not to extend your telomeres but keep them from going to what I call ‘accelerated telomere shortening.’ I also take another product called TA-65, which is another product that lengthens telomeres or that protects your telomeres,” explained Andrews.
His advice to those who do not currently have an exercise program is sound and encouraging.
“Besides the supplements that I mentioned, I would also say get out and get off your butt. Get out on a trail, do adventures, exploring. One thing that's really key, it's not important to run. Walking is just as good for the distance. Try running and walking. Just go the distance. Set a goal, going from point A to point B, and do it. And if you have to walk, that's okay. In fact, walk the whole thing if you have to…,” said Andrews.
Furthermore, he challenges those who believe that running is bad for the knees.
“I keep running into people that say…their knees are bad, they can't run. I said, ‘You know, that's exactly what makes your knees bad, is not running.’ Knees don't go bad from running; knees go bad from actually occasional running or doing other sports like skiing, and soccer and, basketball. But when you consistently run all the time, your knees and hips and ankles, they never go bad. They're designed for that. But you gotta be consistent, because it's the inflammation that results more than anything else, and that causes the injuries,” he said.
Andrews has written a book on the subject of longevity. The name of it is Bill Andrews on Telomere Basics: Curing Aging. He and other scientists are also the subjects of an upcoming movie, The Immortalists.
“This documentary is coming out and it's, I'll tell you, I'm just super, super impressed with the directors, the way they took four years of filming and turned into what I consider a masterpiece,” Andrews said. “You know, the right music, the right way everything was put together. It's just incredible; it's really an incredible documentary,” said Andrews.
Andrews said he has many goals for the future. His major goal is to continue his research.
“I strongly believe that the research that I'm doing will cure aging, simply by the fact that scientists have used our telomere-lengthening technology to turn old mice into young mice. I believe that we're on the verge of being able to do that with humans. And that's just not making us live longer, but it's making us younger—younger and healthier,” said Andrews.