The Road to Age-Defying Therapies

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The Road to Age-Defying Therapies

Over the past several years, we've kept you informed about the promising potential of rapamycin as a drug that could extend human lifespans.

However, the path to commercialization has not been smooth. Let's quickly review the initial research findings, examine the obstacles that have emerged, and explore the breakthroughs that are enabling researchers to overcome those obstacles.

Rapamycin is a naturally occurring bacterial agent that was first isolated from the Streptomycin hygroscopicus bacterium in the 1970s. The drug is named for Rapa Nui, the Polynesian name for Easter Island in the South Pacific Ocean where the bacterium is found in the soil.

Rapamycin was approved by the FDA as an anti-fungal agent in 1999, and it is now given to transplant patients to prevent organ rejection.

But rapamycin may also be effective in prolonging life and preventing aging-related diseases in humans. In 2009, researchers reported fascinating results of experiments on mice, whose genetic makeup is very similar to that of humans. According to the scientific journal Nature, mice that were given rapamycin at an early age lived 10 to 15 percent longer than mice that didn't receive the drug.1

When rapamycin was given to mice that were the equivalent of 60 years old in human years, the impact of the drug was even greater. The life spans of the older mice were extended 28 to 38 percent beyond those of mice that were not given rapamycin.

Researchers from three institutions — the University of Texas Health Science Center, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine — conducted separate experiments and all of them reported the same results.

The animal model studies of rapamycin's anti-aging properties haven't been limited just to mice. The life-extending effects have been duplicated in a wide variety of species, such as worms, fruit flies, and yeast, so it is likely that the drug will be just as effective in humans.

With an average human lifespan today of roughly 80 years, a 38 percent increase would mean that the average human would live to 110; this would do more to improve longevity than curing heart disease and cancer.

Rapamycin changes the way the body responds to food and reduces undesirable responses to stress, such as oxidation that can damage proteins and DNA. Such damage makes people more vulnerable to disease and it is believed to be a component of the processes that cause aging.

In effect, rapamycin makes the cells respond as if the body were on a restricted diet, which has long been associated with health benefits and longer lifespans...

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