An interview with Vladimir Khackelevich Khavinson, the President of the European section of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG), an associate member of the Russian Ministry of Health, the Director of the St.Petersburg’s Institute of Bioregulation and Gerontology of the North Western Department of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, the Honoured Inventor of the Russian Federation, a Professor and a Doctor of Medical Science.
Mr Khavinson, in our talks you mention that the species life span limit of a human is 110-120 years. Why a contemporary person who lives in the age of intensive economic growth, crucial medical and scientific inventions is still not able to reach this limit? Which factors affect premature ageing and depletion of our organism resources?
Well, first of all you probably know there are two notions – an average life span and a species life span limit for all organisms – mice, rats, apes, humans, elephants, tigers, etc. Indeed, a species life span of a human comprises 110-120 years. The world record in that respect belongs to a French woman, Jeanne Calment. Next, today there are 88 persons aged between 110 and 114. There is a special registry in the USA for centenarians – people who lived over 100 years. By the way, 85 out of these 88 are women, and only three of them are men. Today we have over 200 people who have already celebrated their 100th birthday. And all of this demonstrates that living to such an age is possible.
However, the average life span, and I refer to the countries that are economically and otherwise stable, is approximately 80-85 years. These are the northern countries of Scandinavia, Japan and Canada. These are the countries where the state takes care of its people, the countries with a stable and long-continued economy. Russia and Ukraine, for instance, have had so many wars, revolutions, repressions and episodes of hunger that it must have affected genetics and everything else. So, the biggest influence comes from the social factors, two of them, to be precise: genetics and external impact. Harmony between the two is what defines our life span. Curiously enough, genetics is responsible only for 20-25 per cent, the rest comes from external factors, and these include correction with bioregulators. The level of culture, intelligence, and evolution define the life span. Biological factors, too: adequate nutrition, high quality water, physical activity. It should be a multisided, complex approach. However, humanity has not reached the point at which we would be able to use all the resources given to us by nature. And as we mentioned, it is natural for a human being to live to 100 years. We have many examples of persons who live well into their 90-ies and continue working. For instance, the academician Borys Paton, the President of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, is 92 and does well. At the moment this is more of an exception, but I believe that in the future our working capacity will be on the rise. Nowadays even Western Europe is concerned with the ways of integrating senior citizens into public life rather than mere leisure. In my opinion there should be no age limits in the domains of science, culture, and education. The only criterion should be the efficiency of a specific person’s work.
Is there a system to fight premature ageing?
Of course there is – intellectual development is that system. Intellectual level is every person’s main doctor. If a person is not very sharp, consumes alcohol, smokes, eats junk food – it makes no sense to speak of longevity or medicine to create it; such person is hopeless, not to mention alcohol or drug addicts. Therefore, I repeat, gerontology starts with child care, it starts with the level of culture. We conducted research on long-living persons in St.Petersburg and it turned out that it was not whether a person drank tea or coffee, longevity occurred in people who had a rhythm of food intake. People who had breakfast, lunch and dinner at approximately the same time lived longer. We were quite surprised. Therefore, life style, culture level, timely medical examination, research and monitoring of sugar, cholesterol and cardiogram are essential and should be executed annually. In the future there will be a need for genetic passport. This means knowing the genes, having information about genetic predisposition for certain diseases that a person might have. All of that is necessary not for scaring the patients, but for for timely measures to protect organs and tissues in question. The medicine of our future is prophylactic, it deals with prophylactics of age pathology and postponing age diseases until 80-90 years. In this manner, a person can be useful for their own family, efficient for the society and the burden of retirement budget is minimised.
We are informed that the Institute of Bioregulation and Gerontology, which you are the head of, develops extraordinary medicinal products that are able to help a healthy person with minor pathologies prolong their life span. Could you tell a little more about these medicinal products?
As a matter of fact, we develop the concept, not the product itself. This is a systematic approach, which is based on investigation of the processes of ageing. Various stress factors, extreme impacts, radiation, poisoning, injuries – all of that leads to slower synthesis of protein in various organs and tissues. First of all, it affects the brain, our immune system, endocrine system and so on. The medicinal products that are initially created by us, extracted from organs of animals – their immune system, brain, liver, pancreas, and cartilage – restore the synthesis of protein in those tissues that have been exposed to extreme factors of influence. Furthermore, ageing causes identical processes that are just spread in time. In other words, ageing is a gradual process of slowing down the protein synthesis, which leads to malfunctioning and death of an organism as a result. At first, peptides are extracted from calves and purified. This material is the basis for extraction and creation of active peptides. In our experiments, we achieved life spans prolonged by 20-40 per cent, depending on the model, by administering peptides to animals as they reached second half of their lives.
We conducted 25 experiments, which is a unique volume that has never been reached, neither in the USA, Europe, nor Asia. Back then, 20-30 years ago, we had unlimited funding for this type of research, science was embracing enormous respect. Creating one product costs approximately 300-400 million dollars, in the USA this counts. This is why the best geroprotectors have been developed in St.Petersburg. What is it? Geroprotectors are the substances that slow down the process of ageing. These are the peptide molecules that we developed. And it is their systematic intake that is meant for people who reached their second half of life, so to speak, starting from approximately 40 years, but also for individuals who are exposed to extreme factors of influence, such as sportsmen. Take the national Olympic team in artistic gymnastics. Its head Irina Viner asked us to take care of her pupils’ health. Today we also have the rowing national team. It was established that the use of our bioregulators by these sportsmen increased their capacities. And what is sport? It is a continuous synthesis of protein; the result depends on the speed of the biochemical reactions. Peptides increase the speed of restoration of various substances that are necessary for protein synthesis and thus are extremely efficient in the sports domain. Therefore, peptides are useful for all people who are exposed to extreme factors of influence in one way or another, even in their 20-ies.
Another example is Chernobyl in Ukraine, the whole territory that got contaminated. In my opinion, everyone who has been affected by radiation, regardless of their age, should by all means undergo a series of peptide bioregulatory courses, and in particular the product that restores the immune system, ‘Vladonix’. Moreover, this year we published a book dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the disaster in Chernobyl. This book discusses the assessment of our products’ effect on responders’ health. People who used the products for their immune system, the brain, their reproductive system, have a longer life span and a fewer cases of cancer. Moreover, we conducted additional experiments on animals to establish the link between oncogenic factors, radiation and cancer itself. It was determined that the use of immune system bioregulators, I refer to ‘Vladonix’, lead to a decreased number of cancer in animals that were previously exposed to oncogenes, a decrease of five times in case of breast cancer. Another set of experiments demonstrated a seven-fold decrease in tumour frequency. It is therefore crucial for the population of Ukraine that is geographically close to the zone of Chernobyl disaster to take ‘Vladoniks’ and other products from the complex of peptides.
What are the potential side effects of peptides?
All our peptide bioregulators consist of peptides, and peptides consist of amino acids. All of that is part of our food. All of our bioregulators can be find in products – meat, fish, plant based protein food. Note the difference, I do not call our products drugs or food supplements, these are the bioregulators, that is, natural products that take part in the life circulation process. They can be found in all types of food, even plants have peptides. I am often asked about animals such as elephants or cows that consume no meat, yet are huge and healthy. These animals also consume protein and peptides, but the type that can be found in plant based food. Our partners extracted peptides from beetroot, carrots or other vegetables. Peptides, or amino acids, are present everywhere. This is why any side effects are simply impossible, even in theory, as peptides are elements of food. Indeed, if you eat 10 kilograms of strawberries, you might feel sick. The same here: if you eat a kilogram of our bioregulators, you are going to have a protein overload. But this is not a side effect of the product, this is a side effect of one’s recklessness.
Is there a need to consult a specialist before taking bioregulators?
Since the given bioregulators are food elements, there is no need for consulting a specialist. One should consult common sense. For instance, we need no consultation before administering polyvitamins. Our products are similar peptide substances that can in that respect be compared to vitamins.
If a person cannot afford all types of bioregulators, what two-three types would you recommend?
It should definitely be the immune system, ‘Vladonix’ in particular, then the product for the brain, ‘Cerluten’, is very crucial, I hereby refer to the problems that people face at a certain age. Another extremely important product is ‘Sigumir’, the one for the cartilage. These three products are probably the most important ones as most pathologies are related to them.
Mr. Khavinson, what about you? Do you and your relatives take peptide bioregulators?
My relatives are my father and my mother, I have their portraits in my office. My father lived to 92 years and died in an accident, he was still healthy, no heart attack, no blood stroke. My mother is 91, but she has had diabetes for 35 years, she had retinal damage. She has been taking these medicinal products for 25 years, my father was taking them for 20 years. According to my mother, she is so active only thanks to these products. I personally have been taking these products for 15 years, but I also take some of them as injections, some as capsules. Taking care of one’s health is extremely important. Over time, our health deteriorates and we do very little to protect it. And in fact, the older we get, the more additional effort should be paid to fight the nature’s destructive power.
Another topical problem is oncology. There are over half a million cases of cancer registered in Russia annually. Can the peptide bioregulators minimize the risk and why?
Cancer is yet another problem with multiple causalities, it has many localisations, but the main problem is of course the weakened function of immune system and in particular that of lymphocytes. At first, there is no cancer, there are certain cells that mutate, the oncogenic cells. The immune system blocks them as long as immune system functions properly. We get these mutated cells every day and immune system destroys them without any problem. As soon as our immune system gets weaker, it can no longer control the spread of these mutated cells and this is how cancer comes into existence. This is why administering peptides that stimulate the function of our immune system, and in particular regulate our thymus cell immunity, enables minimizing the risk of оncogenic diseases. I would like to stress that we are pioneers in that matter, it has just been published. We managed to demonstrate that administering the immune system peptides after exposure to various carcinogens minimized the risk of cancer by three to five times. This is a world record, our achievement. About 15 experiments have been run on several thousands of animals. So I would like to state that ‘Vladonix’, which is similar to ‘Timaline’ used by responders at the Chernobyl power plant, gives the opportunity to minimize the risk of cancer by several times. This is a statement made by the main gerontologist in Europe.
What made you think of developing such a product?
Creating unique bioregulators? It takes a talent. People differ in their intellectual development, this depends on one’s talent as well as the level of education, upbringing and the societal climate. It is impossible to develop anything in troublesome times and places, take for instance Africa or some countries in Asia. There has to be a thorough infrastructure of the state, which enables education, which gives access to information, such as libraries, science schools, that sort of atmosphere. You know, once I happened to be in one Siberian town and met an academic there. He told me they conducted some serious experiments and were about to be nominated for the Nobel Prize. I was a doctor of sciences back then but I knew it already that his prediction would not come true. He wondered why and I told him ‘Because you have no critical mass of intellect here’. Big inventions never come out of nothing. The Hegelian dialectics of quality and quantity holds true. When I studied, I had a research base, I attended the Medical Military Academy, and prior to that I graduated from the Minsk Suvorov Military School with honours. I also was in the physiology department, which at some point was chaired by academician Pavlov, the laureate of the Nobel Prize. There were other professors, too. And as I walked the halls of that department as a second-year student of the Medical Military Academy, I have always claimed that I am the spiritual grandson of Pavlov. They transferred their knowledge to us. Therefore the place where you educate yourself is highly important. There is a huge difference in the level of education between a shabby institute somewhere in the outskirts and the Moscow State University. All the teachers at our Military Medical Academy were renowned professors and thanks to this access to information, as well as financial aid, inventions were possible. Such a multifactorial result, so to speak.
Is there any analogous product in the world?
Great question. We are the only institute in the world that has a full set of peptide bioregulators, thirty types. This is a unique collection. Of course, there are separate studies and development programmes, but we opened a system. Peptides are a system of signal molecules that regulate gene expression, differentiate cells and increase the life-sustaining resources. This is what our discovery is about. We discovered it and offered it as medicinal products since our goal is not the production of food supplements. We do our work in order to offer medicinal products. Food supplements are semi-medicines, or the medicines for healthy people.
Vladimir, tell us, what is your Institute working on? What novel bioregulators can be expected in the near future?
We are currently working on approximately 50 various new peptides. We do not research them at the institute, this is simply impossible. This is a complex project and a total of eight countries are involved: Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, the USA. Our employees cooperate with foreign employees who have sophisticated technology, newer methods. In Russia today it is unfortunately impossible to purchase all that equipment, for financial reasons. Moreover, it is also crucial to exchange ideas, to use knowledge for common purposes. It is this big-scale cooperation that enables us to keep discovering new products.
As for the new products, we have one peptide that suppresses the growth of helicobacter pylori, a microbe that causes gastric ulcer and cancer. This peptide eliminates the microbe, not in the same manner as antibiotics do, but by stimulating the protective resource of stomach cells. This is a wonderful result. Or one of the brain peptides, developed in cooperation with the scientists from the Moscow State University. We investigated its effect in patients with hypoxia, for instance birth defects such as ICP. It was established that when administered during pregnancy, this peptide protects the brain cells. Another study carried out together with the associate member of Moscow State University, academician Vanjushin, demonstrates that peptides interact with the DNA. This interaction enables peptides to regulate the gene activity. Curiously enough, these peptides interact only with specific areas in the DNA depending on their structure. This is called a complementary peptide – DNA interaction, which is the key to life. Our peptides are the signal molecules that boost gene activity and facilitate full implementation of our genetic programme.
Is this method only for wealthy people or can an average person afford a prophylactic course of peptides?
You know, I support free medicine. The state should take care of its citizens’ health as was the case in the USSR, which was correct. Many wealthy states, by the way, have free medicine: the United Arab Emirates, Singapore. The state finances medicine and education. As for our health care system, it is like car brands: there is Zhiguli and there is Rolls Roys. These brands have multiple models and clients purchase a model that they can afford. The same goes for medicine: one can make a blood test, or a genetic analysis, buy certain medicinal products, maybe one, maybe three. This depends on one’s priorities. Our peptide programme costs less than an individual spends on smoking and drinking each year. Therefore, it is affordable for everyone, but depending on their possibilities and priorities.
What is a genetic passport?
DNA is extracted from a blood cell and then a group of laboratories deduces certain genes, let us call them a stroke gene, a gene of diabetes, a breast cancer gene, etc. These are the genes that indicate the potential for a disease. This does not mean one will get that disease 100 per cent, this is just a risk of getting it, a tendency – this is what genetic passport is about. Once there is such a passport, a GP or the patient can plan their actions.
How do bioregulators correct these faulty genes that lead to stroke or diabetes?
Peptides interact with the DNA and minimise activity of that faulty gene, i.e. synthesis of particular proteins. And in case of a good gene that has been inactive, it is being stimulated and the synthesis of protein is restored. This is protein synthesis regulation.
Who are the patients of your medical centre?
We do not force anyone to come here. A person that has nothing to eat or drink is not interested in attending medical centres. I think that a person starts paying attention to their health once he or she has reached a certain level or position. Everything happens when the human brain matures, a human becomes an individual and starts thinking about their health, existence, further self-realisation. A sick person has no time for self-realisation. Why do I pay so much attention to my health? I do it so my body does not interfere with my brain. Once you get there, you really start thinking about health protection.
What is your forecast on peptide pharmaceuticals and their development?
It is my forecast that in the next 10-15 years peptide pharmaceuticals will become the most crucial development in the world.