Great article about Gerovital history


It is said that once a person attains power, they begin to seek immortality.
His communist regime overthrown in the 1989 revolution, quickly followed by his execution, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu lives on in an anti-aging research institute formed by his totalitarian government that is still in operation in the central European republic.

The Ana Aslan National Institute of Gerontology and Geriatrics is located in Otopeni, a 20-minute drive from the capital city, Bucharest, and is comprised of a medical clinic, accommodation facilities and more on a site spanning 11 hectares.
On a recent summer day, a gathering of elderly patients were found lined up outside the clinic. A 77-year-old man said he traveled for more than two hours to the institute from Brasov.
"I was in bad physical shape overall, so I've been receiving treatment for 14 weeks," he says. "I had aching joints all over and had to use a walking stick, but I don't need it anymore."
There are others who do not suffer from pain, but come here to receive injections and medication in the hope of stemming the aging process. The waiting list is several months long.
The research center is considered one of Ceausescu's pet projects. A flier published by the Romanian National Tourist Office states that his wife Elena had demanded the development of a drug that would provide immortality. Immortality was never in the cards for Elena Ceausescu--she was executed by firing squad with her husband on Christmas Day in 1989 after a speedy trial where they were found guilty of genocide and of amassing wealth.
In the early 1950s, Ana Aslan (1897-1988), a gerontology specialist who became the institute's first director, took the anesthetic procaine and added elements to it such as sulfur and sodium to create a drug called Gerovital H3. Her drug is still central to anti-aging research and treatment in Romania today.
The institute's medical director, Gabriel Prada, 54, asserts that the drug's primary component procaine neutralizes active oxygen, thought to be a prime cause of aging. Although it has not been approved in the United States or Japan, Prada is adamant about Gerovital H3's benefits.
"Its effects have been confirmed over many years of practical use," Prada says. "We are using it to achieve health and long life."
Each year, the institute is visited by more than 60,000 people who wish to be treated with Gerovital H3.
So why did Ceausescu place so much importance on this institute?
"It was because it was a great means of acquiring foreign currency," says secretary-general Mariana Popistasu, 55, who has been in charge of the institute's administration and accounts since 1975. "During the 1970s, it brought in as much as $6 million (469.9 million yen) annually."
Famous names from around the world have received Aslan's anti-aging treatment. According to the institute, they have included Hollywood legend Marlene Dietrich, world leaders such as U.S. President John F. Kennedy and French President Charles de Gaulle, and artist Salvador Dali.
"When they came, the secret police provided tight security, and all staff except for a select few were prohibited from looking at them, even from a distance," Popistasu says.
Still, the presence of many of the institute's famous clientele remains if you know where to look.
An extravagant clothes chest donated by former Philippines President Fernando Marcos and his wife, Imelda, sits in Aslan's former living room, while a guestbook features the signatures of Guatemalan Nobel Prize in Literature winner Miguel Angel Asturias and other luminaries.
How far did Ceausescu take his pursuit of immortality?
Institute staff were reluctant to answer this question, unanimously stating "I don't know."
"The secret police were all-powerful back then, so much remains shrouded in mystery," Prada says. "Most documentation was scattered and lost in the 1989 revolution."
However, Ceausescu was obsessive about his public image. Although he was in his 70s in the closing days of his regime, nearly all pictures of him shown to the public depicted the dictator on his early 40s.
"The Ceausescus had natural water that had supposed health benefits flown in by helicopter," says Shigeo Mutsushika, 60, a University of Shizuoka professor and expert on international politics who studied in Romania for seven years until 1985.
Despite this, the institute's budget was slashed in the 1980s.
"I don't know how much of this is true," Prada says. "But Elena was a scientist herself, and there's a theory that she was jealous of her contemporary, Dr. Aslan."
After enduring a period of great upheaval following the Romanian Revolution of 1989, the institute has seen its revenue from treatment and accommodation finally stabilize in recent years. Furthermore, from 2011, the Romanian National Tourist Board has been using the Ceausescus prominently to promote anti-aging tours designed to attract Japanese.
The board feels that Ceausescu, the leader of a brutal and repressive communist regime, and his wife make useful mascots of a sort for their advertising campaigns. There are obvious concerns that the use of their name may present an undesirable impression. Nevertheless, the image of this immortality-seeking dictator is alive and well more than two decades after his ouster and execution.
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MEMO: According to world health statistics compiled by the World Health Organization, the countries with the longest life expectancy out of 193 surveyed in 2009 were Japan and the Italian Peninsula's Republic of San Marino with an average of 83 years old. Nine nations, including Switzerland, Spain, Singapore and Italy, were tied for third at 82. Romania's average life expectancy was 73.
Elsewhere, the country with the shortest life expectancy was the southeast African state of Malawi at 47 years old. Five countries were tied for second at 48: Afghanistan, Zambia, Lesotho, Chad and the Central African Republic. A high infant mortality rate tends to bring down average life expectancy, and countries suffering from political instability and unsanitary conditions ranked the lowest.
Even Japan's average life expectancy, which has remained at the top of the world rankings, hovered around the 40s for men and women prior to World War II, and only came to exceed the age of 50 in 1947. In 2010, the figure was 79.55 years for men and 86.30 for women, and it is predicted to rise to 84.19 for men and 90.93 for females women in 2060.
The global population over 80 years old is predicted to almost quadruple by 2050 from a total of 395 million in 2000.
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