Aging may be slowed with the natural compound rapamycin

Apr 6 2017 - 5:28am

Researchers at Oregon State University say the natural compound rapamycin may help slow down aging.

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Aging

Since the beginning of civilization it appears people have been searching for ways to slow down or even stop the process of aging. It appears a natural compound called rapamycin may slow down the aging process.

Rapamycin has unusual properties which may help with neurologic damage

Oregon State University reported the natural compound rapamycin may help slow down aging. According to researchers at Oregon State University rapamycin has unusual properties which may help with neurologic damage such as seen with Alzheimer’s disease.

Viviana Perez, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in OSU’s College of Science, says this could offer a new therapeutic approach to dealing with neurologic disease. Perez has an expertise in the biological processes of aging and she is an investigator in the Linus Pauling Institute.

The value of rapamycin is associated with what happens with cellular senescence

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Perez says the value of rapamycin is associated with what happens with cellular senescence. This is a stage which cells reach as they age and they no longer proliferate. At this stage cells start to secrete damaging substances which cause inflammation. It appears that rapamycin helps to stop this process.

A toxic environment is created by the secretion of damaging compounds during senescence. It seems that the cellular microenvironment is disrupted by this and the ability of adjacent cells to function normally is changed therefore undermining their structure and function. This is the overall process which is associated with aging.

Due to the cellular senescence which is associated with aging the stage is set for an increased risk of a large variety of degenerative diseases. These diseases include heart disease, cancer, diabetes and neurologic disease, including dementia or Alzheimer’s. In lab animals when senescent cells are cleared out they live longer and suffer from fewer diseases. Rapamycin has been observed to have similar effects.

Rapamycin is a natural compound which was first found in the soils of Easter Island in the South Pacific Ocean. In laboratory mice which have been given rapamycin greater fitness, not as much decrease in activity with age, better cognition and cardiovascular health, not as much cancer, and a longer life have been observed.

There is an increase in insulin resistance with rapamycin

There is a serious side effect in people with rapamycin which has thus far limited its use. There is an increase in insulin resistance that may increase the risk of diabetes with this compound. Ways to address this problem must be found before rapamycin can be used to deal with degenerative disease in people. Rapamycin analogs are being searched for by scientists which may have similar biological impacts but which don’t cause this dangerous side effect.

The journal Aging Cell has published this article. Senescent cells have been observed to contribute to age associated pathology and loss of function. Physiological function is improved and longevity is extended with the selective removal of these cells. The natural compound rapamycin appears to assist in stopping the damaging process associated with aging. However, due to the side effect of increased insulin resistance seen with this compound safer analogs for people are being investigated.

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