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Rapamycin Could Be Anti-Aging Treatment

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers have found that rapamycin, a compound that has antifungal and antibiotic properties, found in the soil at Easter Island, extended the lifespan of mice who were fed the potential anti-aging chemical. Rapamycin could become a genuine anti-aging treatment that could promote quality of life with aging.

The compound, named after Easter Island’s Polynesian name, Rapa Nui, extended the lives of mice by 28 to 38 percent. That equates to greater longevity in humans if diseases such as cancer and heart disease could be prevented or cured. The mice were the equivalent of sixty years old in human years.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) Interventions Testing Program studies compounds that could help humans remain active and disease-free throughout life. The rapamycin study, found to extend life in mice, is part of a series of research efforts conducted by the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine.

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Arlan G. Richardson, Ph.D., director of the Barshop Institute says, "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. 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."

Rapamycin, called sirolimus, is used to reduce the chances of organ and bone marrow rejection in transplant patients. It is a byproduct of the bacterium Streptomyces hygroscopicus, found in the soil on Easter Island.

Randy Strong, Ph.D., director of the NIA-funded Aging Interventions Testing Center in San Antonio says, "We believe this is the first convincing evidence that the aging process can be slowed and lifespan can be extended by a drug therapy starting at an advanced age." Rapamycin is also undergoing clinical trials as a treatment for cancer. The study is significant because rapamycin is already being used as a medical treatment, making the possibility of use as an anti-aging treatment a not so distant possibility.

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio