Ana Aslan, the woman who defeated time

Ana Aslan is the woman said to have made the fairy tale of Eternal Youth and Life Without Death a reality, believing that “To be forever young does not mean to be 20 years old, it means to be optimistic, to feel good, to have an ideal in life for which to fight and conquer.”

One of the most well-known figures in Romanian science, Professor Ana Aslan dedicated her entire life to research, and her discoveries in gerontology, the science of studying old age, had a significant impact on the medical world. Her name became globally renowned, making her one of the most famous ambassadors of Romania.

Ana was born in Brăila, on the first day of the year 1897. She was the youngest child in a family of intellectual Armenians who placed great importance on their children’s education. Her brothers, Bombonel and Sergiu, became chemical engineers, graduating in Dresden, while her older sister, Angela, had a talent for painting. Their father fell into a gambling addiction, quickly dissipating the family’s wealth. Their mother, Sofia, was 20 years younger than her husband and was well-educated. At 13, Ana lost her father and she decided to fight against aging.

After the family moved to Bucharest, Ana studied at the Central School. Impressed by the achievements of Aurel Vlaicu, the great Romanian aviator, at 16 she aimed to become a pilot and even flew a small Bristol – Coandă type aircraft. Eventually, she found her true calling in studying anatomy and decided to become a doctor. When her mother opposed, saying it was not a suitable profession for a woman, Ana went on a hunger strike and stayed in her room for three days. She eventually attended the Faculty of Medicine and cared for soldiers in military hospitals in Iași during World War I.

Ana had the chance to work with the brightest minds in Romanian medicine throughout her career. In 1919, she collaborated with Prof. Gheorghe Marinescu, founder of the Romanian school of neurology, and after graduating, she became a preparator at Clinic II in Bucharest, led by Daniel Danielopolu. Under his guidance, she completed her doctoral thesis. In the early 1950s, she studied the effects of procaine treatment with Professor Parhon.

“The first patient was a bedridden student because one of his knees was locked. I asked for his permission to administer procaine solution. After a few minutes, he could bend his leg. He left the hospital in a few days.”

In 1952, at Ana Aslan’s initiative, the world’s first Institute of Geriatrics was established in Bucharest. The first drug she created, the famous Gerovital H3, was approved in 1957, later patented in over 30 countries. In the following three decades, the treatment promising to delay the aging process became known worldwide.

Actors, billionaires, and heads of state came to Bucharest in search of the secret of youth. Her patients included Nikita Khrushchev, Claudia Cardinale, Salvador Dali, Charlie Chaplin, Tito, the King of Saudi Arabia, John F. Kennedy, Indira Gandhi, Marlene Dietrich, and General de Gaulle.

During this period, Ana Aslan generated 17 million dollars annually in revenue for Romania, with statistics showing that 10% of foreign tourists came here for the Gerovital treatment.

Her efforts were rewarded with kind words and praise. She received over 130,000 letters, and her archive includes both thank-you letters from patients and professional correspondence. Her fame was so great that it was enough to write “Ana Aslan, Romania” on the envelope, and the letter would reach its destination.

Ana Aslan was a very elegant woman, ordering her wardrobe from Italy. She enjoyed jewelry, French cuisine, fine drinks, and the music of Chopin. It is also said that she was superstitious and collected owl statuettes.

In 1974, she was elected a member of the Romanian Academy. Throughout her life, Ana Aslan received numerous international awards, such as the “Leon Bernard” International Prize and Medal, awarded by the World Health Organization. She was an Honorary Professor and Emeritus Doctor at the University of Braganza Paulista in Brazil and a member of many academies and scientific societies, such as the New York Academy of Sciences. In Romania, her achievements were rewarded with the First-Class Scientific Merit and the First-Class Order of Health Merit “for outstanding services in the field of healthcare of our country’s population.”

The year 1976 was important in her career as she received the inventor’s patent for Aslavital, an effective product in nervous system therapy, developed with pharmacist Elena Polovrăgeanu.

Her success, however, attracted the envy of the communist authorities, disturbed by her popularity. In the early ’80s, she was prosecuted, accused of not charging the elderly in the asylum, thus depriving the State of significant income. After several years of fighting, Ana Aslan won the lawsuit, a year before her death.

She passed away in May 1988, leaving Romania the legacy of “eternal youth.” She never married and had no children, and her belongings became state property: 145 precious metal items (awards, jewelery and other decorative art pieces) were kept at the National Bank of Romania. In 1991, her belongings were purchased by it, with the equivalent value transferred to the state budget.

Ana Aslan is the person who wanted to defeat time and showed that it is possible for an elderly person to have a healthy and active life: “I generally live in the present and the future. I don’t think about the past. I don’t even remember the past. And I believe that another trait that helped me is that I have no regrets. That’s how I have been in life, and that’s how I am now. I have no regrets.”

Under the Patronage of National Commission of Romania for UNESCO

Ana Aslan, the woman who defeated time