Review of Potential Anti-Aging Effects
By Ward Dean, MD
In 2003 the scientific community celebrated two important milestones. First, April 2003 was the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA, revealed by James Watson and Francis Crick to be a double helix. Second, 2003 marked the year the human genome was successfully sequenced by the Human Genome Project (HGP).
The half-century between these two events was a period enriched by the collective insights and hard work of a number of brilliant research scientists devoted to unlocking the mysteries of DNA. One of the leading members of this august body was Dr. Benjamin Frank. Dr. Frank deserves a great deal of credit for his pioneering insight and work in originating nucleic acid therapy to treat aging and degenerative diseases with oral doses of RNA. Dr. Frank intensively experimented with nucleic acids from 1961 until his untimely death in 1979. His early work involved the study of the physiologic effects of RNA and RNA + DNA. He found that these substances had profound (1) anti-aging (including reduced skin wrinkling and increased skin elasticity); (2) energizing; (3) “anti-anoxia” (oxygen sparing); (4) anti-low temperature and freezing [as evidenced by increased survival of experimental animals subject to low temperatures]; (5) anti-viral; and (6) cognitive enhancing effects.
These effects were first reported in his book A New Approach to Degenerative Disease and Aging—Effect of RNA, DNA with Other Metabolites (1964), and were subsequently elaborated upon in his later books, Nucleic Acid Therapy in Aging and Degenerative Disease (A Metabolic Approach with DNA, RNA and Related Metabolites) (1969), Dr. Frank’s No Aging Diet (1976), and Nucleic Acid and Anti Oxidant Therapy of Aging and Degeneration (1977). Although Dr. Frank’s observations remain largely uninvestigated by other scientists, they are summarized here as a potential adjunctive approach to alleviating a variety of conditions, ranging from cosmetic and bothersome symptoms to life-threatening illnesses.
Dr. Frank’s nucleic acid treatments contained from 300 mg to several grams of RNA and DNA, taken daily along with a high-potency multi-vitamin, multi-mineral formulation. Remarkable improvements were often obtained, ranging from increased mental alertness and physical performance, to decreased wrinkles.
Integrated Theory of Aging
Dr. Frank’s publications were not just a compilation of his observations, but outlined an integrated theory of aging. His theory was that nucleic acids, when injected or ingested, led to a marked increase in enzyme synthesis and activation. These actions are enhanced when optimum amounts of associated coenzymes (vitamins) and cofactors (minerals) and substrates are present or administered along with the nucleic acids. Dr. Frank envisioned the whole system of metabolites as being active in RNA therapy, but believed the nucleic acids were the most critical part of this regimen.
Most diseases originate from some kind of cellular disorder or damage. Dr. Frank believed that diseased cells (and aging) could often be “cured” by supplying the cells with an abundance of their basic building materials in pure form. The idea of the “Nucleic Acid Treatment” is to supply cells with perfect, undamaged nucleic acids, which are the basic building blocks of DNA and RNA. Nucleic acids activate the processes of DNA repair in degenerative conditions by inducing enzyme synthesis and activation, and increasing the energy-producing processes in the cell.
Dr. Frank believed that it should be possible, by activation and synthesis of proper enzymes, to repair cellular and sub-cellular damage with some degree of precision. This is a point which no one working with nucleic acids has properly developed. It also helps to explain why DNA damaged in degenerative diseases and aging is repaired by the type of nucleic acid therapy which he recommended.
Frank proposed that rejuvenation could occur if large quantities of pure RNA and DNA were consumed and then incorporated into our own RNA and DNA. (This probably happens when cells divide and new DNA and RNA is formed). The replacement of “old” nucleic acids with “young” nucleic acids represents an overall improvement in, or repair of, our DNA and RNA. Since DNA and RNA are the key molecules for the efficient performance of the cells (and the entire body), an overall improvement of all cell processes should result, as Dr. Frank observed in patients treated with nucleic acids.
Dr. Frank was aware that the number and quality of mitochondria decreased with aging. He believed that nucleic acids may lead to increased synthesis of mitochondria, as well as enhanced repair of mitochondrial damage, thereby resulting in the increased energy production seen with RNA treatment. Dr. Frank first described the anti-anoxia effect of exogenous nucleic acids in his book, A New Approach to Degenerative Diseases and Aging (1964), which he believed was due to increased electron transport chain activity, resulting from increased ATP synthesis and turnover. Frank also believed that aging was due to a decay of DNA, occasioned by the breakdown of lysosomal membranes and subsequent release of destructive enzymes that cause DNA to decay. This breakdown of DNA leads to improperly formed messenger RNA. With advancing age, defective messenger RNA molecules are formed, causing subsequent errors in protein synthesis. If the improperly formed protein molecules are enzymes, they may either fail to perform their essential chemical reactions in cells, or do so at reduced rates.
In any event, the result would be an accumulation of the substrates on which the enzymes act. Because of the feedback mechanisms which operate in cells, this accumulation of substrates could stimulate an increased production of defective messenger RNA and enzymes. When such an increase does not permit production of adequate amounts of normal enzymes, the cell dies. Nucleases are enzymes in the body that destroy nucleic acids. Ribonuclease (RNAase) breaks down RNA. Levels of ribonuclease increase as we grow older, resulting in increased destruction of RNA. This explains why older people need larger amounts of RNA. Aging, or decay in cells, may precede this increase in RNAase activity so that RNA itself is liberated. This liberated and possibly denatured RNA (or RNA-containing compounds) may induce increased RNAase formation and, once formed, this RNAase activity returns to accelerate the aging process.
Basic to Dr. Frank’s approach is the theory that exogenous RNA, when combined with metabolically associated B vitamins, minerals, amino acids and sugars, will enter the cell and aid in normal regeneration of the decayed metabolic organization of the cell and in so doing will bring about normal enzyme synthesis and activation.
Although Frank was aware of and respected the work of other pioneers in anti-aging research like Denham Harman (Denham Harman and the History of the Free Radical Theory of Aging, VR News, Aug. 2002), and Johan Bjorksten (Crosslinkage Theory of Aging, VR News, Jan. 2002), he believed that the key to retarding or reversing aging—whatever the cause—lay in repairing the damage involved at the points or places of involvement. And it is here that nucleic acid-containing repair systems must be primarily involved. He believed that the nucleic acid containing metabolic system appears to offer the best hope of repairing the increasing damage caused by the aging process.
To retard aging, he believed it was important to increase the quantity of nucleic acids in the diet, along with a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals and trace minerals, and to follow a diet containing sufficient high quality protein and unsaturated fatty acids. Dr. Frank believed that if the optimum dosage of nucleic acids were taken, it would double or triple the present life span, if experience in animals was any indication.
Nucleic Acid Therapy for Aging and the Diseases of Aging
Dr. Frank claimed that nucleic acid therapy resulted in a definite, but incomplete, reversal of many of the degenerative processes of aging. He believed that the observed results of aging reversal obtained with nucleic acids (and other nutritional factors) pointed the way to an attainable goal of reversing the biological age of an 80 year old man by 40 to 50 years. Frank stated optimistically, “Indeed, when total reversal of aging is achieved there would seem to be no reason why an indefinitely long and healthy life is not possible.”
Dr. Frank reported on his experiences in increasing the life expectancy of two dogs treated with RNA. One dog was a mongrel aged 14 years, and the other was a 16-year-old Chihuahua. Both dogs were nearly blind, with hair that was dry, brittle and scanty, and suffered from arthritis and “myocardial weakness.” From their appearance, their future life expectancy was estimated by a veterinarian to be months, at the most. Dr. Frank treated both dogs with RNA (8 gm daily for the younger dog, and 4 gm daily for the older dog), along with B complex and cod liver oil daily. The health of both dogs improved dramatically after one month, activity increased, and their coats became much softer and fuller. The younger dog died in an automobile accident at age 20, and the older dog succumbed at age 23 from an infestation of intestinal worms. Dr. Frank reported that both dogs were in excellent health immediately prior to these final episodes, and believed that their lives were definitely extended by the RNA therapy.
Anti-Aging Effect of RNA on Skin
One of the most visible effects of aging is the wrinkling of skin. Other skin changes include a loss of elasticity and thinning of the skin, accompanied by the loss of fat and water. In human studies, Dr. Frank reported that “the most striking effects were observed on the skin of the face….the higher the dosage, the more rapidly these effects were observed. The first changes appeared to be alterations in skin …toward a healthier, rosier looking skin, with an apparent smoothening of the skin of the face, without any change yet in wrinkles and lines…. When dosages as low as 500 to 1,000 mg RNA daily were used, these early changes occurred in about 2 to 3 weeks. When doses of 5 grams daily were used, these changes occurred within the first week.
After one to two months of treatment, there not only was an increase in smoothness and color of the skin, but lines and wrinkles began to diminish. The wrinkles in the forehead were often the first to decrease in depth. Those of the nasolabial fold appeared to take longer. The lines around the eyes took longer still to decrease in depth….”
Concurrent with the observed decreases in skin wrinkling Dr. Frank observed increases in skin tightness, which he believed were an important cause of the smoothening of the skin, along with increased hydration.
A standard test of aging of skin is to measure the time it takes for the skin of the dorsum of the hand to return to its normal condition after being “pinched” (Figs. 1 and 2). Three to four months of RNA treatment resulted in a more rapid return to normal in the majority of patients tested. Frank reported that after 15 patients (6 males and 9 females, varying in age from 40 to 71 years) were administered 5 grams of RNA daily for three months, the time it took for skin to return to normal after being pinched decreased by 30 to 40 percent. Wrinkles of the forehead were also noticeably reduced after 2 to 4 months of treatment. Dr. Frank estimated that the improved appearance of the skin resulted in an apparent decreased age by ten years or more in older patients (those over 70).
Dr. Frank reported that “liver spots” often disappeared after approximately two months of oral nucleic acid therapy, accompanied by tightening of the skin, causing folds to diminish and giving skin a tighter, more youthful appearance. In addition to the obvious improvements in skin appearance and elasticity, these changes indicate potentially beneficial effects on internal organs as well.
Dr. Frank noted other skin changes due to RNA therapy, including a gradual decrease in size and pigmentation of senile keratoses (wart-like skin lesions), beginning two to four months after initiating RNA therapy. This occurred with doses of RNA ranging from 1-3 gm daily.
Frank also noted reduced dryness of the skin, and an improvement in acne in younger people.