Easter Island soil drug 'makes mice live longer'

By Phungushead · Jul 10, 2009 · ·
  1. Phungushead
    Easter Island soil drug 'makes mice live longer'

    r189958_713157.jpg Scientists in the US say they are a step closer to extending life expectancy after three studies found that a drug called rapamycin is capable of increasing the longevity of mice.

    The drug, discovered in a soil sample from Easter Island in the 1970s, has already shown benefits in treating a variety of medical conditions.

    In tests on middle-aged mice of about 20 months old, the drug increased life expectancy by up to more than a third.

    Arlan Richardson, director of the Barshop Institute responsible for one of the experiments, says this is the first demonstration that there might be an anti-ageing pill available in the future.

    "What they've shown here is that for the first time it's possible to use a drug or a single compound and feed it to a mammal, a mouse, which is fairly similar to human beings, and these mice will live longer," he said.

    The discovery could have major implications for society, particularly in the treatment of age-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and perhaps even neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
    Dr Richardson suggests that clinical studies examining the feasibility of rapamycin in treatments could be imminent.

    "I know that there are studies ongoing now in using rapamycin in cancer treatments and therapies," he said.

    University of Washington biochemist Brian Kennedy says that if the claims are true then it would be a big step in medical research.

    "If there's a drug that can slow the rate of ageing it will provide a protective mechanism against a whole range of these different diseases," he said.

    "That remains to be shown, but we're getting to the point in ageing research where we can directly test this idea."

    The down side

    But rapamycin has potential negative side-effects which could preclude its use in humans.

    "What we don't know is whether long-term chronic exposure at low doses, which is what the mice were given, will give rise to these negative effects as well," Dr Kennedy said.

    "But I think it is exciting because it's the first drug that offers that potential down the road.

    "I think there'll be more drugs coming that have similar affects. The key will be finding the right ones that give you the benefits and don't have the negative consequences."

    Anti-ageing drugs have their critics, and Dr Richardson says he can understand why people are sceptical.

    "I would have been one of those sceptics about a year ago, or even six months ago. I've been involved in ageing research for about 30 to 35 years, and about every couple of years there's something that's touted will slow down ageing," he said.

    "I had assumed that we would not find a drug or a compound that would do it in my lifespan, but this is probably the best controlled study, it was done at three sites and they replicated it at all three sites."

    By Kathryn Stolarchuk

    July 09, 2009
    ABC News

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  1. Alfa
    Does anyone know what negative side effects where found for rapamycin?

    What studies have been done?
  2. Ontherooftops
    A google search yeilded that rapamycin is already on the market for preventing organ rejection in kidney transplants under the name brand name Rapamune. The chemical seems to be renamed as Sirolimus. So I'm not quite sure what ABC meant when they said side effects could preclude it's use in humans. Perhaps longetivity doses are higher or administered differently? Of course the FDA has to approve medications for each individual diagnosis.

    To answer your question Alpha, http://www.medicinenet.com/sirolimus_tablets-oral/article.htm says: WARNING: This medication may make you more likely to develop an infection or certain types of cancer (e.g., lymphoma, skin cancer). Notify your doctor immediately if you develop any signs of an infection such as fever, chills, sore throat, white patches in your mouth, or a change in vaginal discharge. Also, notify your doctor immediately if you have unusual lumps, swollen glands, unusual swelling, or unexplained weight loss. When sirolimus has been used in liver transplants, an infrequent but potentially fatal liver problem has occurred (hepatic artery thrombosis). Use of this medication to prevent rejection of liver transplants is not recommended. Notify your doctor immediately if you develop: dark urine, stomach pain, yellowing eyes or skin, extreme fatigue or nausea. When sirolimus has been used in lung transplants, an infrequent but potentially fatal lung problem has occurred (bronchial anastomotic dehiscence). Use of this medication to prevent rejection of lung transplants is not recommended. Notify your doctor immediately if you develop: difficulty breathing.

    Sounds like living longer in style to me.
  3. Phungushead
    What Does Life-Extending Drug Mean for Humans?

    [IMGL="white"]http://img.timeinc.net/time/daily/2009/0907/mice_0708.jpg[/IMGL] A natural compound used as an immunosuppressant in organ-transplant patients has been found to extend life in mice, according to a study published on July 8 in the journal Nature. Aging mice that were given the substance, rapamycin, lived significantly longer than mice that didn't get the drug: females that received rapamycin were 13% older at death and males 9% older.

    The research, conducted as part of the National Institute of Aging Interventions Testing Program, took place at three separate test sites and involved nearly 2,000 genetically similar mice. Trials began when mice were about 600 days old — well into middle age, at a stage roughly equivalent to 60-year-old humans.

    Because of their late start (researchers had intended to study mice from early ages but were stymied by technical difficulties), scientists weren't sure they could expect clear results. However, even administered late in life, rapamycin delayed the deaths of the longest-lived male mice by 101 days and by 151 days in the longest-lived females — the equivalent of about 13 years on average in humans — compared with mice with no treatment. In terms of life expectancy when treatment began (or average remaining lifespan when the mice were 600 days old), that translates to an increase of 38% in female mice and 28% in males.

    Although the results are untested in humans, they do suggest that aging could be slowed by drugs. Exactly how rapamycin works is "still an open question," says Randy Strong, a pharmacology professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and one of three lead authors of the study. But he and his colleagues were prompted to test the aging effects of rapamycin, which was discovered in Easter Island soil samples about 40 years ago, after noting that the compound appeared to affect cell growth in lab animals in much the same way as calorie-restricted diets, which also appear to extend life.

    Scientists think rapamycin's cellular target — called mTOR for "mammalian target of rapamycin" — helps regulate the body's response to nutrients and may also, according to Strong, "gear up responses to stress," such as the oxidative stress that damages proteins and DNA and contributes to disease development. "What we're doing with rapamycin," Strong says, "is we're actually tricking the cells into thinking that they're depleted of nutrients. Rather than the animals losing weight — we haven't noticed any weight loss — they may be just using their proteins more efficiently, and then repairing proteins more efficiently."

    It's this cellular efficiency, perhaps, that delays aging and helps preserve animals' good health. The findings suggest that rapamycin does not affect or prevent any one disease specifically — the mice in the study died of various causes, with no real difference between mice that received rapamycin and those that didn't — but rather that it slows aging overall.

    Rapamycin's life-extending effect has been demonstrated by other researchers in past studies of worms, fruit flies and yeast; the drug appears to interfere with a similar cellular process in those species too. "I think this is a big leap from those invertebrate species to mammals," says Strong, who is also a senior research scientist for the Department of Veteran Affairs. "This gives us a good idea that perhaps it would work in humans too."

    Earlier human trials have shown, however, that rapamycin can have serious side effects. Because it is an immunosuppressant, it can make users susceptible to opportunistic infections. It has also been linked to hyperlipidemia, or high levels of triglycerides in the blood, which can lead to heart disease. It's unclear whether these problems would counteract any longevity benefit that rapamycin might provide in humans. Says Strong, "I think more immediately, people are starting to look at [rapamycin] for age-related diseases like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease or kidney disease." The drug has also recently entered clinical trials as a human cancer treatment, while another study published last year showed that it may reverse mental retardation caused by the genetic disease tuberous sclerosis in mice.

    As agents for extending life, other drugs may be further along in the pipeline — resveratrol, for one, which has also prolonged life in lab mice. But the new finding by Strong and his colleagues "more clearly identifies the [target of rapamycin] pathway as important across species." It may guide researchers to target different proteins in the same pathway. "If those proteins react the same way to extend lifespan, then we might be able to get rid of unwanted side effects," says Strong.

    Laura Blue

    July 09, 2009
  4. Nature Boy
    Pfft! 9% older. Shit, SWIM could end up living 9% longer if he just stopped eating red meat but that wouldn't be much fun now, would it? As great as the headlines sound, these things are never as great as they're cut out to be. If they've known about this for 30-35 years, we should be seeing its use coming into effect if it really does have potential. By all means, it would great if they managed to produce this drug without any side effects. They could even put it in water, like flouride, until some idiot claims it gives you tumours because they have a fetish for rotten teeth.
  5. Phungushead
    Drug Has Potential to Slow Aging

    Study Shows Rapamycin May Have Antiaging Properties

    A drug first found in the soil of Easter Island in the South Pacific may hold the elusive key to slowing the aging process.

    New research shows rapamycin extended the life expectancy of middle-aged mice by 28%-38%. Researchers say that's more than the expected benefit in extra years of life that would be achieved by knocking out both heart disease and cancer in humans.

    "We believe this is the first convincing evidence that the aging process can be slowed and life span can be extended by a drug therapy starting at an advanced age," says researcher Randy Strong, PhD, in a news release. Strong directs the Aging Interventions Testing Center in San Antonio.

    The Aging Interventions Testing program is funded by the National Institute on Aging and is designed to test compounds for potential antiaging effects on mice. Several compounds have already been tested, but researchers say rapamycin is the first to significantly increase the life span of mice at all three testing centers and in both male and female mice.

    Rapamycin was first discovered in the 1970s in the soil of Easter Island. Its immunosuppressant properties led to its use in transplant patients to prevent organ rejection. It's also being studied as a potential anticancer drug.

    In the study, published in Nature, researchers added rapamycin to the diets of mice who were the human equivalent of about 60 years old.

    At first, the drug was not readily absorbed into the bloodstream of the mice, so a specialized feed was developed with an encapsulated, timed-release form of rapamycin.

    The results showed that the average life span of the mice was increased significantly with rapamycin.

    Researchers write that "rapamycin may extend life span by postponing death from cancer, by retarding mechanisms of ageing, or both." The effects of rapamycin may be due to its effect on an enzyme involved in cell metabolism.

    Although the results are promising, experts say it is still much too soon to assume it will have the same effect in humans.

    "In no way should anyone consider using this particular drug to try to extend their own life span, as rapamycin suppresses immunity. While the lab mice were protected from infection, that's simply impossible in the human population,” says Lynne Cox, a researcher in aging at the University of Oxford, England, in a news release.

    "What the study does is to highlight an important molecular pathway that new, more specific drugs might be designed to work on. Whether it's a sensible thing to try to increase life span this way is another matter: perhaps increasing health span rather than overall life span might be a better goal," says Cox.

    July 10, 2009

    By Jennifer Warner
    WebMD Health News

  6. Mickeld
    The question that SWIM has is if it is discovered in the soil of Easter island, is it a renewable commodity? Imagine... humans living an extra 200 years with the help of a non renewable drug. Who would be the ones to really get any advantages from the drug? The rich and well connected. While we work away our lives slaving for them, they grow old in style foregoing death.
  7. nibble
    As the article mentions rapamycin is an immunosuppressant, this would surely not be something that could be taken on a long-term basis because it would open the possibility of contracting a myriad of infections that a normal functioning immune system would deal with. It is probably through the immunosuppresion that the effect is mediated so I don't think another drug in the class could get around this glaring problem, an interesting study absolutely but I doubt this will contribute anything to actual human longevity.
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