Is the Wnt Pathway the Fountain of Youth?

Written by Dr. Chris Smith, Updated on November 9th, 2023
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Is the Wnt Pathway the Fountain of Youth?

Perhaps it is! Keep reading and discover why

From the moment we take our first breath until we take our last, we rely on the descendants of the embryonic stem cells that created us at birth. Progenitor stem cells are the direct descendants of the stem cells that differentiate to create, maintain, and repair every organ and system in the body.

For example, one family branch of progenitor stem cells tends to our central nervous system; another brand monitors our blood flow and keeps our bone marrow strong, and another branch keeps our hair growing and our skin supple.

The crucial role of the Wnt pathway.

Discovered in 1982, the Wnt pathway is one of several biochemical pathways in the body. However, the Wnt pathway is unique. It is a signaling pathway, and a type of rely circuit comprises of proteins and genes.

What makes the Wnt pathway special is this. The Wnt pathway is the overseer of our progenitor stem cells. In this role, the pathway directs the cells to form into certain types of tissue...when to make the tissue, how much to make, and when to stop.

In short, the Wnt pathway is the foundation of life. When we’re young, the pathway performs flawlessly. Like a new vinyl record, the sound has no skips or cracks.

But “Old-man Aging” crashes the party

As we age, our toxic environment and self-destructive lifestyle choices give us the equivalent of a scratched vinyl record. Like a fading radio signal, the Wnt pathway signals become static as they weaken and drift out of range. Consequently, some of our systems are flooded with too many things that are not needed and too little of other things that they vitally need.

The result is a slew of adverse health issues: organ malfunction, weakened bones and muscles, obesity, baldness, dry, wrinkled skin, and many other unwelcome developments that are symptoms of aging.

Without our body’s systems and organs receiving these signals from our progenitor stem cells, we lose the information needed to keep us robust and healthy. The information theory of again says that our genes don’t change, but we lose our ability to read them. Our ability to read our genes is a process called epigenetics.

David Sinclair, the Harvard anti-aging researcher, weighs in about what he calls the “Information Theory of Aging”: we become old and susceptible to diseases because our cells lose youthful information. DNA stores information digitally, a robust format, whereas the epigenome stores it in analog format and is therefore prone to the introduction of epigenetic “noise.” An apt metaphor is a DVD player from the 1990s. The information is digital; the reader that moves around is analog. Aging is similar to the accumulation of scratches on the disc, so the information can no longer be read correctly.

Think about this. If our body could receive those early signals loud and clear, organs could rejuvenate, and our systems could return to functioning at their youthful levels. If we could adjust the dial of the Wnt pathway, we could ramp up the tired, sad sack cells that are underperforming and cool off the overabundant cells that cause problems like arthritis. The implications of this possibility are gigantic!

And this might become a reality

That’s right! Research continues to develop the precise amount of small-molecule medicines that can turn the dial on critical, out-of-whack stem cells.

The procedure identifies what Wnt pathways are off-target, then develops molecules that could fine-tune them back into balance. Balance is critical; too much stimulation could be as bad as too little. This goal has been elusive since the healthy stem cells must be left alone; only the decrepit cells need to be altered.

The good news is that the researchers have found that the molecule treatments do their job quickly without any severe side effects.

Scientists have estimated that the hyperactive, overcharged Wnt pathway is responsible for almost half of all cancers. Worse, the numbers are staggering for aggressive cancers: 90% of liver cancers, half of breast cancers; 93% of colorectal cancers; and two-thirds of pancreatic cancers.

One of the Wnt molecules is in phase 3 of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) trials. This is from the FDA’s web page: Study Participants: 300 to 3,000 volunteers with the disease or condition. Length of Study: 1 to 4 years. Purpose: Efficacy and monitoring of adverse reactions. Approximately 25-30% of drugs move to the next phase.

Here is another way to examine the potential benefits of controlling a rouge Wnt pathway. A car that is decades old can still be running in top condition. How? Simple. When a tire wears out, it is replaced. If the engine dies, it is replaced.

This can be applied to every car part: the transmission, interior, windshield, etc. No matter what part is replaced, it is still your own it even if every part of the car was not a part of the original vehicle.

And the same can be said for the human body! The potential for Wnt pathway rejuvenation is unlimited. This does not, of course, guarantee a positive outcome. The FDA has rigid standards for approving any drug (rightfully so), especially one in this category of life-changing potential.

Time will tell. But if things go as planned, we may see the emergence of a genuine fountain of youth, or, as others have called it, the God pill!



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