CVAC – Breathe and Beware

Right now, all over the world but especially in first world countries there is high demand for new techniques to increase healthspan at the latter stage of human life. When a need becomes somewhat prominent, it is only logical for some people to look for ways of making money from it. This is not necessarily bad, motivated individuals may end up providing a valuable service and making life much easier or better.

One interesting example of an attempt to provide a service for those who would like to live healthy lives for as long as they can, is what is now known as the Cyclic Variations in Adaptive Conditioning machine or CVAC machine. The CVAC treatment involves placing someone inside a special chamber where air pressure will increase and decrease cyclically for about 20 minutes. According to most websites, three 20 minutes sessions per week will eventually cause a series of positive changes in the person’s body that include but are not limited to: stem cell replication, better sleep patterns, lactic acid removal, and stimulation of mitochondrial biogenesis.

The CVAC pods are described as modified versions of hypobaric chambers, meaning, that they not only decrease the air pressure to replicate high altitude conditions but they vary air pressure several times during a single session following a programmed pattern. Many different businesses (spas and other wellness-oriented establishments) have started to advertise these machines and their health benefits. Considering the high cost of these chambers and the unclear amount of sessions needed before obtaining any benefit, we should at least determine if they are what they claim to be.

Any individual with a mild interest in this procedure will probably have several questions about it. The most common ones (what is it?, how does it work?, etc) will probably be answered quickly by reading the description in websites like Tony Robbins and CVAC systems, however, as they read the few paragraphs, they may find something a bit odd, which is, for all their claims, most sites won’t offer clear references about hard research or any kind of reliable data on the effects of CVAC treatments over the human body. This is always a red flag.

If you are a particularly curious individual, you may try to find more reliable information about this procedure, in that case, sooner or later you’ll have to read academic papers related to the topic, but, at that point you’ll find that there is very little reliable information about CVAC in general. CVAC is not really a hot topic within the scientific community right now. The larger amount of official documentation about these machines are patents. Independent studies (especially those with human subjects) are rare.

After trying to obtain more information about CVAC and other related treatments, it will become apparent that either CVAC is not the magnificent procedure that many claim it to be or its health benefits have been severely overlooked by the bulk of the scientific community.

The basic principle of CVAC is not without merit. Some studies have related cyclic variation of air pressure (Cyclic Hypobaric Hypoxia) with improvement of glucose metabolism in middle-age men; increased endurance in athletes and improved β-cell replication in mice. These benefits are not trivial but they are also not what was advertised. At this point, any potential client or patient should be aware of the limited data regarding CVAC therapy before spending their money.

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A trial is about to start in the UK using engineered viruses to repair hearts damaged by heart attacks. The gene therapy will hopefully return the muscle back to how it was before the damage occured. Not only will this help people survive one of the big 10 killers, it doesn’t take much imagination to take this a step further to rejuvenate aged muscles and organs to how they were in younger healthier bodies. Read full story on BBC News

Heart muscle aging reversed (in mice)

An interesting article in New Scientist this week regarding using the blood of younger mice to reverse the signs of aging in older mice – full article here – using daily injections of the protein GDF11. Not only could this help prevent early deaths in humans (by repairing damaged heart muscle after a cardiac arrest) but is an apparent demonstration that rejuvenation will one day be possible – its hard to argue that you couldn’t choose to live forever if your body could be continually rejuvenated. Let’s stay healthy out there to make sure we get over the finishing line!