A longread with infographics by Jonathan Roseland, Applied Neuroscience Strategist
In the video below you can watch the article. Here you can find SkQ1 inforgraphic.
People often ask me about novel Biohacks, exotic Nootropics or ground breaking anti-aging strategies. They will want to pay attention to the applications of SKQ1.
You can find over 150 pieces of published research on Pubmed, including two significant human clinical trials. So it’s firmly out of the territory of being an unpredictable pharmacologically active research chemical and is attracting the attention of mainstream anti-aging researchers.
Novel Longevity Science
Usually I begin these article by first describing the main uses and benefits of the supplement or technology. This article though I’ll begin by describing the unique anti-aging mechanism of SKQ1 because it’s quite remarkable.
SKQ1 vs Phenoptosis
Phenoptosis is the death of an organism programmed by its genome…
Begins an articulate paper by Vladimir P. Skulachev, the premise of the paper is that aging is intentional as opposed to incidental. The popular view is that aging is just the result of entropy, our biology just breaks down over time like an old car but Professor Skulachev argues, using a variety of compelling examples like salmon dying immediately after spawning, that our very own selfish genes are accomplices to the aging process. Oddly, aging and death may be evolutionarily advantageous.
Vs Reactive Oxygen Species
The chemical executioners carrying out Phenoptosis are Reactive Oxygen Species, which you’ll often see referred to by the acronym ROS (don’t worry I promise not going to get too crazy with acronyms in this article!)
Species don’t necessarily have to be things that are furry, fighting, flighting (or fucking!) Species also includes categories of chemicals that react with our neurobiology.
The famously quirky transhumanist Aubrey de Grey says that…
Breathing is bad for us!
Which sounds absurd but it’s actually quite true, the same oxidizing effect that rusts metal and makes food go bad eats away and corrodes our biology.
A very reasonable fellow on FightAging.org is worth quoting:
[Reactive oxygen species] can damage mitochondrial structures, and that can lead to mutant mitochondria that take over and cripple cells, causing harm to surrounding tissues. [Reactive oxygen species] are also used as signals in many fundamental cellular processes, such as the response to exercise and triggering of cellular maintenance in response to stresses. Thus antioxidants targeted specifically to the interior of mitochondria have the ability to influence these processes, where other types of antioxidant cannot:
Chief clinical officer Lawrence Friedhoff, M.D. summarizes…
SkQ1’s uniqueness and innovation is that it was designed to accumulate inside an important part of every living cell…
And that’s what makes the difference—targeting free radicals where they do most of their damage to the cell, inside mitochondria.
The Dictatorship of the Genome
I’ve argued before that Mitochondria are to genes what free will is to predetermination. Skulachev paints a similar metaphor to explain how these unseen factors deep in our biology affect our lives – we are at the mercy of the “dictatorship” of the genome…
In essence, the issue here is already not social well-being, but the “dictatorship” of the genome, the only self-reproducing biological structure whose preservation, development, and expansion have taken priority over the well-being of an individual or a group of individuals. In terms of this concept, an organism is nothing but a machine serving the genome’s interests…
It seems quite possible that the mechanism of rapid phenoptosis, like that of slow phenoptosis (aging), is mediated by intramitochondrial ROS at early stages of the process. If this hypothesis is true, then the positive effect of SkQ not only on aging, but also on a variety of acute pathologies in both young and old organisms, can be explained in terms of quenching of these ROS.
Thus, it seems possible that SkQ can serve as a tool in the “rise of the machines”, an attempt of Homo sapiens to overcome the genome tyranny and to cancel those genome-dictated programs that are useful for genome evolution but unfavorable for an individual.
To build on Skulachev’s metaphor if the genome is the dictator and ROS is the KGB (government secret police) then SKQ1 molecules are the freedom fighters.
What is SKQ1?
Before moving onto the exciting potential (and actual!) biohacking applications of SKQ1 it’s important to make sure that you understand just a little more of the science.
SKQ1 is an antioxidant, but it’s not just any old antioxidant, it’s a smart antioxidant that targets the Mitochondria that needs it.
A Mitochondrial Targeting Antioxidant
I once saw a documentary about how in Israel very clever farmers make the desert bloom because they don’t water their farms the way everyone else does with a sprinkler system. The Israelis use an ingenious pumping system that delivers the water to the individual plants themselves, thus saving immense quantities of water and making farming much more productive – it’s a significant factor in Israel’s success as a country.
SKQ1 kind of does the same thing for our Mitochondria!
To jump to another metaphor, SKQ1 is kind of like a science fiction space freighter tugging cargo, that cargo is plastoquinone (I’ll explain what that is shortly) and the Mitochondria is like a black hole sucks in the space freighter and it’s cargo.
The Mitochondria sucks in the SKQ1 because of electrical polarity; the mitochondria is negative and SKQ1 is positive.
An Interdimensional biohacker surmised about it’s mechanism
There might be two reasons why mitochondrial targeting is effective.
#1. The mitochondria produce a high concentration of ROS, and thereby an antioxidant localized to that area would absorb greater quantities of ROS than an antioxidant that is free to wander other parts of the cell, and would thereby prevent those ROS from escaping to other parts of the cell where they could cause havoc.
#2. The mitochondrial genome is in close to a high concentration of ROS generated by the electron transport chain. Damage to this mitochondrial genome might cause all sorts of trouble to the cell, for instance by impairing energy metabolism. An antioxidant that could nullify ROS before they have a chance to interact with mitochondrial DNA might prevent downstream consequences of mtDNA damage.
Plastoquinone to the rescue!
Plastoquinone is the cargo that gets delivered right to the Mitochondria. It does two very helpful things for us
- ATP production – Energetic molecules that are exported from the Mitochondria to power our cells.
- Cleanup of Peroxides – Peroxides are a bad ROS which is kind of like Mitochondria poop, a toxic byproduct of the mitochondrial process.
From a paper that Skulachev himself penned in 2012
mitochondria-generated reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a tool to stimulate apoptosis, an effect decreasing with age the cell number (cellularity) of organs and tissues.A group of SkQ-type substances composed of plastoquinone and a penetrating cation were synthesized to target an antioxidant into mitochondria and to prevent the age-linked rise of the mitochondrial ROS level.
An Anti-Aging Innovation
This is a very exciting anti-aging avenue, an recent animal study concluded
When started late in life, supplementation with SkQ1 not only prevented age-related decline but also significantly reversed it.
We suggest that supplementation with low doses of SkQ1 is a promising intervention to achieve a healthy ageing.
In 2017 Russian and Swedish researchers collaborated on a follow up animal study, that confirmed SKQ1’s beneficial effects on traits of aging like
- Lower body temperatures
- Body weight loss
- Heart, kidney and liver pathologies
It maybe an organ and heart health hack
As the results, the normal mitochondrial ultrastructure is preserved in liver and heart…
The study found that it improved animal longevity by about 15%:
MtDNA mutator mice exhibit marked features of premature aging. We find that these mice treated from age of ≈100 days with the mitochondria-targeted antioxidant SkQ1… live significantly longer (335 versus 290 days). These data may be relevant in relation to treatment of mitochondrial diseases particularly and the process of aging in general.
A 15% improvement in longevity may not sound all that exciting but the interesting thing is that in the animal studies they started giving SKQ1 to mice in the middle or the end of their lives and it worked to improve quality and quantity of life. Many anti-aging and health interventions fall into the category of…
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
These studies are indicating that SKQ1 maybe an anti-aging hack for those whose younger selves spent many decades making poor decisions about their health and lifestyle.
It increases quality of life and senescence signs in aged animals, in the animal studies it reduced aging diseases like…
- Heart arrhythmia and infarction
- Kidney infarction
- Brain stroke
- Pancreatic cancer
If you want to go deeper into SKQ1 science, I’ll encourage you to do some reading of the numerous papers that Skulachev and his colleagues have published, which are readable and well translated into English. Unlike studies about a lot of Nootropics most of the SKQ1 papers are published in full, publicly on the Internet as opposed to hidden away behind pay walls.
Assuming you now have at least a cursory understanding of this novel anti-aging tool I’ll move on to the practical uses of SKQ1…
The application of SKQ1 that most interests me is as a vision Biohack. Eyes are particularly susceptible to ROS related mitochondrial deficiency – this is why old people, so consistently, develop worsening vision impairments and eye conditions.
In 2015 a notable clinical trial demonstrated the efficacy of SKQ1 as a vision biohack, at least for people suffering with dry eye syndrome. It was a randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled study of 240 Russians over 6 weeks.
Dry eye syndrome… is a multifactorial disease of the tears and ocular surface that results in symptoms such as discomfort, visual disturbance, and tear film instability, with potential damage to the ocular surface.
Visomitin exhibited a more pronounced and stable post-therapy effect in patients with [dry eyes] than placebo…
Based on the results of this study, Visomitin is effective and safe for use in eye patients with [dry eyes] for protection from corneal damage.
In 2016 American and Russian researchers collaborated on a phase 2 clinical trial following up on the previous dry eye research.
SkQ1 was safe and efficacious in treating dry eye signs and symptoms. Statistically significant improvements with SkQ1 compared to placebo occurred for the dry eye signs of corneal fluorescein staining and lissamine green staining in the central region and lid margin redness, and for the dry eye symptoms of ocular discomfort, dryness, and grittiness.
Another recent animal study noted that
Visomitin SkQ1-containing eye drops have pronounced preventive and therapeutic effects on the photodamaged retina
According to Dave Asprey’s authoritative book on Biohacking mitochondria
After your brain and your heart (and your ovaries if you’re a woman), your eyes contain the highest concentration of mitochondria in your body. This makes your eyes extremely sensitive to anything that might mess with your mitochondrial energy production. (p. 156)
This is why for example, Biohackers find that their vision improves when they use Nootropics like the Racetams that empower mitochondria and they become better at playing videogames, sports or shooting guns at the range.
Could this mean that SKQ1 eye drops are a vision hack for otherwise healthy people with healthy eyes?
That’s hard to say, there has not yet been any human studies done with otherwise healthy people.
One of the the initial applications is in these eye drops for those who suffer from dry eyes, that’s the on label application, that’s increasingly being verified in human clinical trials.
Now even though these studies are focused mostly on dry eyes SKQ1 holds some promise for almost everyone who wishes that they had better eyes. What these high quality studies are saying is that SKQ1 is effective at repairing and restoring vision.
To quote from a 2017 Australian paper on SKQ1 as a treatment for optic neuropathy:
Many reports have illustrated a tight connection between vision and mitochondrial function. Not only are most mitochondrial diseases associated with some form of vision impairment, many ophthalmological disorders such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy also show signs of mitochondrial dysfunction. Despite a vast amount of evidence, vision loss is still only treated symptomatically, which is only partially a consequence of resistance to acknowledge that mitochondria could be the common denominator and hence a promising therapeutic target.
Thus these are the Off label applications for Visomitin
- Early onset age-related cataracts
- Enteral inflammations
Visomitin is pretty affordable so it seems worth trying if you suffer from any of these.
Anecdotally, Skulachev cured his own cataracts using SKQ1
One user reported it effectively relieving eye strain:
…I have personally tried visomitin.
Since I spend a lot of time at the computer, pain and dryness appear in my eyes. this disease is called dry eye syndrome. So the doctor prescribed me Visomitin drops, in the drugstore they also call the drops Skulachev ions, at first they arranged that they are not expensive enough, and when I began to drip into my eyes, I felt that eyes were not so tired, and if they were tired, then after usage – Five minutes later, all the unpleasant sensations pass away. I advise everyone!
Our skin is our organ which makes the most contact with the atmosphere and the ROS discussed earlier, thus Mitochondrial targeted antioxidants like SKQ1 have a variety of rejuvenating effects on the skin.
At least for the time being, the skin care applications do not have as strong clinical evidence as the vision applications do. There’s several animal studies that demonstrate that it improves dermal wound healing.
This is a (rather expensive) mitochondrial skin hack for the vain, it’s more of a beauty and skin care application for making your skin look younger and more vibrant. It’s on label applications include
- Reducing wrinkles
- Reducing skin pigmentation
- Restoring natural moisture balance
Anti-aging serum reduces the visibility of already existing mimic wrinkles, restores natural moisture balance, and reduces skin pigmentation. MitoVitan has prolonged and accumulative effect, i.e. the effectiveness increases with permanent and long-term use.
Is a skin repair and rejuvenation application of SKQ1. It’s on label applications include
- Thermal or mechanical skin injury
- Dry skin
- Skin reddening
- Different forms of skin irritation
The Pathway to Mainstream Medicine
Mitotech S.A is the pharmaceutical company founded by Skulachev based in Luxembourg which is developing SKQ1 products and drugs.
For better or for worse Skulachev and his colleagues are taking SKQ1 through the American FDA’s regulatory process.
As you can see below Mitotech has completed stage 2 trials for the FDA and the researchers anticipate completing stage 3 for all indications of Visomitin in 2018.
Many anti-aging drugs and technologies choose to circumnavigate bureaucracy by being sold as a none-dietary supplement or a not for human consumption product that is not intended or prescribed to treat any condition but they take a big risk that one day a letter from a government lawyer will put them out of business.
This makes me think (or at least hope!) that SKQ1 is a legit anti-aging innovation, drugs that go through the FDA process are subject to significant scrutiny.
Now you, like me, might be quiet cynical about the FDA but it shows that Skulachev and company have real confidence in SKQ1.
If SKQ1 were just a cash grab it would already be sold as a flashy Internet marketing supplement instead of ensconced in laboratories as it’s creators take it through the tedious regulatory process.
This is why, with the exception of the vision and skincare products, you can’t yet whip out your credit card or Bitcoin wallet and have some SKQ1 on it’s way to your doorstep.
Good things take time.
The first SKQ1 drug which is poised to treat and profoundly help those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Acute Kidney Injury and Barth Syndrome which is a rather rare heart condition.
It’s also poised to begin phase 2 trials in Russia for treating Neurodegeneration, this should interest biohackers seeking performance enhancement, as it means that Plastomitin will likely have significant Nootropic effects. There have been at least several books written about how optimizing Mitochondria seriously improves your mind; motivation, memory, mood, powers of focus and cognition.
Presumably something that hacks your Mitochondria on such a fundamental level should in the long term make you feel quite limitless.
According to Dr. Anton Petrov, Chief Operating Officer of Mitotech Plastomitin™ should be on the market in the next few years.
SKQ1 vs MitoQ vs C60
SKQ1’s anti-aging cousins are the antioxidants MitoQ and C60 (also sometimes called C60oo and other silly names) which is derived from olive oil.
MitoQ and SKQ1 deliver to the Mitochondria chemical foot soldiers that fight ROS, MitoQ delivers CoQ10, and SKQ1 delivers Plastoquinone.
C60 is a little different, it’s an antioxidant molecule that your mitochondria absorbs by osmosis.
Why is SKQ1 worth your attention when C60 and MitoQ are highly accessible?
SKQ1 directly targets the mitochondrial membrane, MitoQ is also targeted to the mitochondria, C60 is not, your Mitochondria absorb it by osmosis (hopefully!)
MitoQ cannot be regarded as a mitochondria-targeted form CoQ or CoQ precursor since it cannot replace CoQ in its master function…
The big problem that MitoQ has is that VERY little of the CoQ10 actually gets delivered to the inside of the mitochondria, perhaps as low as 1% – 2% according to a 2014 paper out of the University of Toronto:
CoQ10 has low oral bioavailability due to its lipophilic nature, large molecular weight, regional differences in its gastrointestinal permeability and involvement of multitransporters. Intracellular delivery and mitochondrial target ability issues pose additional hurdles. To maximize CoQ10 delivery to its biopharmaceutical target, numerous approaches have been undertaken.
Whereas SKQ1 delivers Plastoquinone directly to the interior of the Mitochondria. To quote author and doctor Josh Mitteldorf
But no animal study has ever succeeded in extending life span with CoQ10. Perhaps its value is limited by bioavailability. Only a small portion of ingested CoQ10 makes its way from the stomach into the bloodstream, and a much tinier portion actually reaches the mitochondria where it is needed. This is the issue that Skulachev has addressed in such an innovative way with his molecule, which his friends and students have affectionately dubbed SkQ.
Plastoquinone is better than CoQ10. Skulachev initially used CoQ10 but A/B testing it with Plastoquinone in animal experiments discovered that Plastoquinone is a more effective antioxidant.
Regarding C60, one of the masterminds behind the anti-aging forum Longecity clarified
C60 is NOT currently theorized to promote rejuvenation, only to slow aging
I would not say that MitoQ and C60 are useless, there’s significant anecdotal evidence and some clinical evidence that they are very helpful in restoring and maintaining health but SkQ1 is the clear leader in terms of safety and economics thanks to the tiny dose of it needed to achieve the kind of effect that the others might have. The tiny dosage also makes it highly non-toxic, which is a concern with the other Mitochondrial antioxidants.
SKQ1 is very potent. A 2008 study reported
These results suggest that under the conditions used SkQ1 protects mitochondria from oxidative damage as an antioxidant when added at extremely low concentrations.
…extremely low, nanomolar concentrations of the mitochondria-targeted plastoquinone derivative SkQ1… were shown to prolong the lifespan of male and female Drosophila melanogaster by about 10%…
SKQ1 as a Nootropic?
A lot of Biohackers are at this point wondering if SKQ1 would work as a performance enhancing Nootropic or smart drug for otherwise healthy people that just want more energy or motivation.
It’s hard to say at this point, there have been no human trials conducted demonstrating an effect on cognition. I could find no meaningful or credible anecdotal reports from Biohackers who tried it and experienced classic Nootropic effects.
However, the Mitochondria are the fundamental energy generation system of the body; optimizing your Mitochondria is quintessential performance enhancement; more energy, better mood, memory, immunity, resilience or hotter sex. Anything that improves your Mitochondria will make you better but we are probably a few years off from real SKQ1 Nootropics, for the time being at least SKQ1 is quite expensive, if you’re interested in hacking your Mitochondria for performance enhancement, you’ll want to use the Mitochondrial supplements I list here.
A 2017 in vitro study out of Lomonosov Moscow State University observed that SKQ1’s targeting made it a highly effective antibiotic:
Mitochondria-targeted antioxidants are known to alleviate mitochondrial oxidative damage that is associated with a variety of diseases…
Ten published pieces of scientific research explore it’s potential as an anti-cancer agent, specifically cervical, prostate and pancreatic cancers.
From the most recent study:
In our study, we used mitochondria-targeted antioxidant SkQ1 to lower the mtROS level…
According to 2013 paper it’s something of an apoptosis biohack for treating and preventing cancer:
It seems promising to study the possibility of using SkBQ as an anticancer drug on the types of cancers that can be treated by chemotherapeutic prooxidation. Thus, activation of mitochondrial ROS generation in prostate cancer cells leads to the death of these cells…
…according to our data, reducing the generation of mitochondrial ROS kills cancer cells by inhibiting the cell cycle aftermitosis, which activates apoptosis…
Seven items of scientific research discuss how it maybe a transformative tool for combating Alzheimer’s.
From a 2017 animal study
Using OXYS rats that simulate key characteristics of sporadic AD, we evaluated effects of SkQ1 treatment from the age of 19 to 24 months on the locomotor and exploratory activities, signs of neurodegeneration detectable…
As a result, in OXYS rats, the proportion of severely damaged mitochondria decreased…
According to our past and present results, the repair of the mitochondrial apparatus by SkQ1 is a promising strategy against [Alzheimer’s].
In 2016 Russian and American scientists collaborated on another animal study entitled, An antioxidant specifically targeting mitochondria delays progression of Alzheimer’s disease-like pathology.
The study concluded
Collectively, these data support that mitochondrial dysfunction may play a key role in the pathophysiology of [Alzheimer’s] and that therapies with target mitochondria are potent to normalize a wide range of cellular signaling processes and therefore slow the progression of [Alzheimer’s].
An animal study suggested it as a male fertility biohack
In conclusion, our data suggest that the mitochondria-targeted antioxidant SkQ1 is effective in improving spermatogenesis… and might be used for the treatment of male infertility.
State of the Art
Good things take time.
As an anti-aging agent SKQ1 is entering it’s adolescence, we’re probably several years away from veritable SKQ1 drugs or supplements that biohackers would want to take to improve performance or maintain vitality as they age but it’s certainly something to watch.
At this point there’s excellent evidence that SKQ1 in the form Visomitin is good for your eyes, in fact it could be transformational for your vision. If your eyes are imperfect thanks to unlucky genetics or way too much time spent staring at glowing rectangular screens Visomitin is worth your attention.
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