Scientists find path to fountain of youth

By | October 2, 2009

Scientists find path to fountain of youth

The fountain of youth may exist after all, as a study showed that scientists have discovered means to extend the lifespan of mice and primates.

The key to eternal — or at least prolonged — youth lies in genetic manipulation that mimics the health benefits of reducing calorie intake, suggesting that aging and age-related diseases can be treated.

Scientists from the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College London (UCL) extended the lifespan of mice by up to a fifth and reduced the number of age-related diseases affecting the animals after they genetically manipulated them to block production of the S6 Kinase 1 (S6K1) protein.

Scientists have shown since the 1930s that reducing the calorie intake by 30 percent for rats, mice and — in a more recent finding — primates can extend their lifespan by 40 percent and have health benefits.

By blocking S6K1, which is involved in the body’s response to changes in food intake, similar benefits were obtained without reducing food intake, according to the study published in the US journal Science.

The results corroborated those of other recent studies.

“Blocking the action of the S6K1 protein helps prevent a number of age-related conditions in female mice,” explained UCL professor Dominic Withers, the study’s lead author.

“The mice lived longer and were leaner, more active and generally healthier than the control group. We added ‘life to their years’ as well as ‘years to their lives.'”

The genetically altered female mice lived 20 percent longer — living a total of 950 days — or over 160 days more than their normal counterparts.

At age 600 days, the equivalent of middle age in humans, the altered female mice were leaner, had stronger bones, were protected from type 2 diabetes, performed better at motor tasks and demonstrated better senses and cognition, according to the study.

Their T-cells, a key component of the immune system also seemed more “youthful,” the researchers said, which points to a slowing of the declining immunity that usually accompanies aging.

Male mice showed little difference in lifespan although they also demonstrated some of the health benefits, including less resistance to insulin and healthier T-cells. Researchers said reasons for the differences between the two sexes were unclear.

“We are suddenly much closer to treatments for aging than we thought,” said David Gems of UCL’s Institute of Healthy Aging, one of the authors of the study, which was primarily funded by the Wellcome Trust.

“We have moved from initial findings in worm models to having ‘druggable’ targets in mice. The next logical step is to see if drugs like metformin can slow the aging process in humans.”

Other studies have also found that blocking S6K1 were channeled through increased activity of a second molecule, AMPK, which regulates energy levels within cells.

AMPK, also known as a master “fuel gauge,” is activated when cellular energy levels fall, as takes place when calorie intake is reduced.

Drugs, such as the widely-used metformin, that activate AMPK are already being used in human patients to treat type 2 diabetes.

Recent studies by Russian scientists suggested that metformin can extend mice’s lifespan.

Another drug, rapamycin, was found to extend the lifespan of mice, according to a study published in the British journal Nature.

As rapamycin is already used in humans as an immunosuppresant — to prevent a patient from rejecting an organ after transplant — it could not be administered as an anti-ageing drug in its current form.

But rapamycin blocks S6K1 activity and could thus extend lifespan through its impact on S6K1.

Seizing on the potential, US firm Sirtris Pharmaceuticals uses resveratrol, a powerful anti-oxidant found in red wine, as well as other fruits than raisin.

Sirtris scientists — including co-founder David Sinclair, also a researcher at Harvard Medical School — have found that resveratrol activates the production of sirtuin proteins, which also unleash the same physiological effects as reducing calorie intake.

Sirtris has produced highly concentrated doses of resveratrol and is currently leading clinical trials with diabetes patients and others suffering from liver and colon cancer.

via Scientists find path to fountain of youth.

3 thoughts on “Scientists find path to fountain of youth

  1. Ni

    I hear that fasting, when done properly can extend life significantly longer than just eating regularly. There was a study done (I wish I could find it) documenting the life of two sets of worms, one set ate regularly as was the norm for their lives, the other set would eat, then would be deprived of food until their mass was notably less, then be fed again. That set survived up to eight times longer than the other set.

    Something worth thinking about…

    1. Xeno

      You may be right:

      Based on a range of risk factors, it appears that long-term CR has a powerful protective effect against atherosclerosis. This interpretation is supported by the finding of a low carotid artery IMT.nih.gov

  2. Susanne McKenzie

    As I see it the dilemma for Sirtris, and now Glaxo, is that the products they are developing already exist in effective natural, inexpensive form. Given, his synthetic analogs may be more potent or targeted against specific conditions however biotivia transmax the concentrated resveratrol being used in the human trials, is available now and has been shown in peer reviewed studies to be safe and effective. Synthetic analogs historically have been shown to be somewhat unpredictable in effect and safety. Why not simply stick with the natural form? It is here now and does not require an expensive physician’s appointment. To succeed Glaxo will have to come up with sythetic versions of resveratrol that are shown to be clearly superior to resveratrol itself and just as safe. In the meantime Sinclair has taken to insisting that people wait for his pharmaceutical version of resveratrol to be approved and hinting that only this product will provide the real health benefits already clearly associated with Transmax. Glaxo is hoping to create a synthetic version which they can copy and dominate the sales of.

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