Chapter 1 - The First Concept
How would you like to stay young? Or to prevent, or at least slow down, the gradual erosion of your
body and mind? How would you like to avoid the creeping depression that afflicts almost everyone as you get older?
Or how would you like to avoid the most dreaded affliction of all, that doddering, mumbling, forgetful state called senility?
No matter if you are thirty or ninety the probabilities are than you can.
We think many of the answers are in this book. But before we start exploring these answers, let us examine a story that is probably one of the most significant and unusual you have ever heard. Certainly it will enthrall you if you are interested in fighting man's most feared enemies, commonly known as old age and death.
The dramatis personae of our story are some of the earth's most brilliant scientists, philosophers, Hollywood film and TV stars—and just plain average citizens. Some are old, some are young. All the researchers are young in the true sense of the term, pristine, in that their thought is original, clear, and in many ways unique. Never before has there been such a vast assemblage of geniuses and near-geniuses, working separately and yet somehow united, to establish a beachhead against a most potent enemy.
Our story begins many eons ago when man first became a man in that dark limbo between realities as man, unlike the animals around him, became aware of and began to fear death. However, for our present purposes, we shall skip forward to a day in the modem era. It was a day that went largely unnoticed by the world; yet it was probably one of the most momentous days in the history of man and for his progeny, yet unborn.
This was the day when a woman doctor stood up and announced to a skeptical group of eminent medical scientists that she had uncovered good evidence that a true, almost universal, fairly effective antidote for aging existed. The day was September 5, 1956, and the scientific meeting was held in Karlsruhe, West Germany.
The symposium was on the subject of aging, and ways to prevent it or at least slow it down—about which nothing or almost nothing was known. definitely. Great doctors all over the world had spent lifetimes trying to escape that seemingly inexorable equation which caused man and all things of which he was aware to move, with inevitable certainty from youth to maturity to old age and finally death. The somber equation:
Birth- Maturity--> Aging--> Death.
In spite of all his science, learning and intuition man had not been able to affect the aging process to any appreciable degree. In fact, he had not been able to even advance the traditional threescore and ten years of life allotted him by certain prophets of biblical days. A study of the aging process always would end with more puzzling questions than the researcher started out with. Study of aging was a study in futility and frustration—and bitterness. Nevertheless, the questions raised were so intriguing and the goal so compelling that man never could abandon the search.
And that is why a group of doctors gathered in Karlsruhe to speak to each other about tiny clues, promulgate pet theories or hunches, drink wine or mineral water, depending on their inclination, argue vociferously or quietly or sarcastically: again depending on the state of their hormonal flow and their inhibitions, or "trained reflexes"—and all the while knowing that as they talked, their bodies and minds were disintegrating into nothingness with every millisecond.—and knowing there was nothing they could do to stop the relentless process.
Such was the state of the study of aging in 1956. So it is little wonder that Dr. Ana Aslan's observations that a common local anesthetic, procaine (known as novocaine in the U.S.) could and did delay the aging phenomenon—and in many cases, seemingly reverse it,—met with incredulity that day.
Dr. Aslan, director of Romania's Institute of Geriatrics in Bucharest, presented evidence on three groups of patients, each containing thirty to forty patients. These were patients living in the Institute and 2500 others who were being treated as outpatients.
‘She offered evidence based on more than five years of intensive and extensive research among the aging and old people treated at the Geriatrics Institute that procaine hydrochloride was not just an anesthetic, but a potent anti aging factor.
Dr. Aslan spoke that day of how her patients at the Bucharest Geriatric Institute were benefited greatly by use of a procaine based medication which she called GH3. She claimed a general "eutrophic" (beneficial) effect and a "regenerative effect at the cellular level." She also claimed that this drug, in general use for over fifty years, had made old people feel young or at least feel more like living. The treatment, she said, eliminated depression, produced muscular vigor, achieved amazing results in hypertension, arthritis and angina pectoris. In addition, it had regrown hair on some patients and recolored hair in a few others.
It is possible to imagine the consternation with which this news was received by the delegates, since such a report would be received with almost the same skepticism today.
She did not claim credit for the discovery that procaine was helpful in many ailments; she quoted the work of the French doctor Rene Leriche and other researchers that procaine was of benefit in certain forms of arthritis and many other diseases. What is unique about her "rediscovery," as she termed it, is that procaine is effective in anti aging. This discovery had not been noticed before, the reason being that most researchers, having exhausted their various specialties on how procaine could help them in their particular problems, sent in their reports, and on publication promptly dropped the subject. They turned their attention to other matters, "publish or perish" being the dictum under which modern-day scientists labor. Meanwhile, their reports gathered dust on library shelves, it not being the habit of most researchers to follow up reports of others unless they are overwhelming in popular interest or unless they present a direct challenge to, or corroboration of, their own work.
(We must interject a note here. It was not "plain" procaine that Dr. Aslan was reporting on. It was an entirely different, superior substance, later called Gerovital H3. Few thought at the time that the added ingredients contributed much to the end result; but they did. As we will explain later, they made quite a difference, particularly as they affected the acid-alkaline balance (pH). This partly explains why many researchers trying to duplicate Aslan's results did not, and therefore Aslan's work was considered dubious for many years in "official" Western medicine.)
At any rate, the woman doctor's presentation was not enthusiastically received by the highly skeptical doctors at the conference. How could procaine, already in worldwide use for fifty years, possibly do the things she claimed for it? True, her presentation seemed valid enough on the surface: the records were well kept, control groups were established, and six years seemed to be a sufficient period of time for some indications even in the difficult matter of human aging. But why hadn' t anybody else done this before or noticed these effects during the long years procaine had been in use?
Can you imagine Ana Aslan's thoughts as she realized she would not be believed in spite of her carefully prepared presentation? Was she crushed and humiliated?
Yes, as she told me many years later, but that did not make her give up. She knew she was telling the truth; she knew that she and her coworkers were right. And there was the evidence of the patients themselves. Poor, pathetic, sniveling old people who had been given up to eke out their miserable existences in the old people's homes and finally die without dignity. This was, and still is, the sorry pattern accorded the aged throughout the civilized world.
Dr. Ana Aslan, at that ebb tide of her career, could not know of the many stormy years ahead: years of bitter controversy outside Romania, with frustration piled on frustration-- sometimes interlaced with moments of warm recognition by interested colleagues--until the dramatic moment of finally being accepted in almost every country. She could not know then that final recognition would not come in the United States and England until hundreds of thousands of people had been helped for over twenty years—think of the untold millions who died meanwhile without a chance to be helped—and hundreds of unassailable experiments had been performed. Even then the recognition would come slowly, agonizingly, and would require the full cooperation and resources of her government—as well as a set of fantastic, thoroughly incredible circumstances.
Nor could Professor Dr. Aslan know that one of her countrymen, his M.D. newly acquired, had observed her work at an old people's home, and was so profoundly impressed with what he saw--—the old people coming "back to life," as he described it to me recently--—that many years later, as a highly successful ophthalmologtst-researcher, he gave up his career so that he could work for the "magic substance" in the United States. It was to be an integral part of a pattern, which when assembled--regardless of your beliefs in coincidence or a Guiding Force, will tax your imagination considerably.
Our GH3 story had a happier chapter the following year (1957). Again the same group met at Karlsruhe. Meanwhile, our indomitable doctor had her findings published in the influential German medical journal therapiewoche. Therefore, doctors had had an opportunity to study the data contained in the article as well as see filmed evidence of the findings. This time Dr. Aslan was applauded by many delegates; in fact, she was given what we would call the "keys to the city."
She had come again with the same facts (buttressed by an additional years evidence) but still with a great degree of trepidation. Also, as she told me, she felt a certain uneasiness because of the "political situation." The cold war was still on. The world was polarized between communism and anticommunism. Nowhere was the battle raging with more intensity than in partitioned Germany where West fought against East. Romania had been through a succession of bewildering changes. First the pro-West royal government under King Michael; then a fascist regime during World War II under Hitler s Germany; then overrun by the Soviet Union with Hitlers defeat—with the resulting government being reorganized as a socialist republic under the aegis of the USSR. Small wonder that citizens of Romania might be slightly confused about politics.
However, Dr. Aslan found out that science does transcend politics and national barriers when she was treated with such high honors in Karlsruhe in September, 1957.
The fact that she was accorded great respect did not mean automatic acceptance by scientists in any country, West or East. But sporadic testing began soon in several countries, notably England, the United States, Italy, Switzerland, France and Turkey in the West; and the Soviet Union and Bulgaria in the East.
As we have previously pointed out, almost all the researchers in England and the United States employed straight procaine instead of Aslan's GH3—therefore, they did not achieve the same results as Aslan. Interestingly, however, a study--—double-blind--—carried out in the United States in 1965, in an admitted attempt to "sink the procaine myth," used GH3 and procaine. Much to the researchers surprise, they found that GH3was significantly different from procaine in results on patients and that it was beneficial to older patients just about as Dr. Aslan had said. Further, extensive laboratory tests confirmed the clinical findings. For reasons we will explain later, this report, exhaustive though it was, was ignored until very recently. (See Chapter 12.)
Now that we have seen the beginning of GH3 therapy, we should take a look at the people involved with it—both pro and con. What is GH3? Why does it work? But first, we ought to learn about the status of studies on aging today.
What is aging? We shall also briefly examine various other forms of anti aging treatments and see how effective they are. We shall ask many questions of the so-called experts in the study of aging (gerontology) and see what answers they advance.