Drug Extends Life Span in Mice – Will it Work for Humans?

July 9, 2009

(ChattahBox) — Taking a pill to prevent aging  just may have come one step closer to reality in our lifetimes, with researchers finding that a drug commonly used in humans to prevent transplanted organs from being rejected, helps extend the expected lifespan of mice significantly.  The study was led by three different US institutions, the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Discovered in the 1970s in the soil of the Easter Island, rapamycin was first noted for its anti-fungal properties and later was used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients. David Harrison, who led the arm of the experiment that took place at the Jackson Laboratory, found that rapamycin, given to middle-aged mice in their food at an age equivalent to 60 years old in humans extended the lives by 28 percent to 38 percent.  In human terms, this would be greater than the predicted increase in extra years of life if cancer and heart disease were both cured and prevented.

The Texas study was led by scientists at two institutes at the UT Health Science Center: the Institute of Biotechnology (IBT) and the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies.

“I’ve been in aging research for 35 years and there have been many so-called ‘anti-aging’ interventions over those years that were never successful,” said Arlan G. Richardson, Ph.D., director of the Barshop Institute. “I never thought we would find an anti-aging pill for people in my lifetime; however, rapamycin shows a great deal of promise to do just that.”

Aging researchers currently acknowledge only two life-extending interventions in mammals: calorie restriction and genetic manipulation. Rapamycin appears to partially shut down the same molecular pathway as restricting food intake or reducing growth factors.  A not so wanted effect of rapamycin as an anti-aging drug though is that it suppresses immunity. The findings, published in the journal Nature, raise the prospect of being able to slow down the aging process in older people.

Via: BBC


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