Potential Anti-Aging Drug Promises Longer Life Spans
A drug capable of elongating life spans to over 100 years might not be as unrealistic as it sounds, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard Medical School.
Led by Medical School professor David Sinclair and published last week in the journal Science, the study identifies compounds that may help prevent and treat debilitating diseases associated with aging like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
One of those preventative compounds—resveratrol—is found naturally in the skin of red grapes. Sinclair’s lab first linked resveratrol to anti-aging effects in 2006. Since then scientists have pushed back on the idea that consuming the component through things like red wine can lengthen one’s life span.
But Sinclair’s most recent study pushes back against those criticisms, directly linking resveratrol intake with the prevention of age-related diseases.
Ana da Silva Gomes, a Medical School research fellow who co-authored the study, called the revelation “extremely important for drug development and the treatment of age-related diseases.”
“By fighting one disease we are actually preventing many other age-related diseases,” Gomes said.
In addition to the discovery regarding resveratrol, the study also identified specific synthetic compounds that accelerate the production of SIRT1, an enzyme that has proven beneficial for the treatment and prevention of age-related diseases.
Synthetic compounds in particular, researchers said, might be used to create an “anti-aging” drug. Although resveratrol supplements are currently available in the consumer market, their health benefits have not yet been proven.
“The idea is to extend the healthy and productive years of people’s lives,” said Basil P. Hubbard, a co-author of the study and who worked in Sinclair’s lab as a graduate student.
By delaying the onset of age-related diseases, such a drug could potentially elongate a person’s life span.
Scientists have already begun to develop synthetic compounds mimicking resveratrol’s function that are “a hundred or a thousand times more potent” than naturally occurring compounds like resveratrol, Hubbard said.
Drugs containing such compounds, if successfully invented, will be a “real breakthrough” for in the process of preventing diseases related to aging, said Hubbard. Currently, such drugs are the subject of numerous clinical trials, although researchers are unsure how long it will be until they become readily available on the market.
Researchers found that obese mice fed resveratrol supplements had dramatically longer lives, because the resveratrol essentially counteracted the effects of the mice’s high-calorie diet—their arteries were cleaner, their hearts were stronger, and they demonstrated improved brain function.
The study identified specific compounds that accelerate the production of the enzyme SIRT1, which has been proven beneficial for the treatment and prevention of age-related diseases. These compounds can be used to create an “anti-aging” drug.
“The idea is to extend the healthy and productive years of people’s lives,” said Basil P. Hubbard, co-author of the study and a former graduate student in Sinclair’s lab.