09 July 2009

Will an immunosuppressant help you live up to a hundred years?

Easter Island squirrel prolongs life Alexey Timoshenko, GZT.RU

Scientists from the USA have found out that a protein originally found in bacteria from Easter Island is able to significantly prolong the life of laboratory mice. In terms of human age, the animals lived for over a hundred years.

Researchers from ten different institutes (including the largest nursery of laboratory animals in the Jackson Laboratories and two gerontological clinics) tested the effect of rapamycin on rodents. This substance was first isolated from bacteria that live in the soil of Easter Island (the native name of the island, after which the drug was named – Rapa Nui), and is actively used in medicine to suppress rejection of transplanted organs. The fact that rapamycin is able to prolong life, doctors did not know before.

Rapamycin and its goals

Mice that received rapamycin with food lived longer due to several different effects. Scientists found that the animals suffered from all the same diseases that those who were on a standard laboratory diet suffered from – but at the same time the aging process itself was slower. In addition, cancerous tumors also developed more slowly.

The fact that such an effect has not been detected before, researchers associate with the mechanism of action of rapamycin. This substance affects several biochemical reactions at once, which, in turn, regulate the synthesis of various proteins, metabolism in the cell and much more. It was difficult to get a complete picture of all the properties of the drug and initially the ability of rapamycin to prolong life was not at all obvious.

The flip side of longevity

Despite the fact that the experimental mice lived (by human standards) to a hundred years (in fact, the mouse lives for about three years, and even then with good care), it is not necessary to talk about clinical trials yet, alas. The fault lies in the property thanks to which rapamycin entered medical practice long before the experiment of American experts on longevity: this protein suppresses immunity.

When transplanting organs, such a property is necessary and can save the patient's life. A patient with a transplanted kidney will risk catching an infection and getting complications, but his body will not initially reject someone else's organ. The risk of infection is justified by the preservation of the organ, but simply suppressing the immune system in humans would be unacceptable.

Lynn Cox, an expert on longevity problems from Oxford University, commented on this in an interview with the BBC as follows: "Laboratory mice are reliably protected from infections, but this is impossible for humans."

Longevity a little later

Despite the fact that rapamycin cannot be immediately released on the shelves of pharmacies as a medicine for prolonging life, scientists believe that their discovery can also lead to the identification of a way to prolong life without reducing immunity.

Professor Randy Strong from the University of Texas and one of the authors of an article published in the journal Nature describing the role of rapamycin in longevity, said that "We have received the first evidence that the aging process can be slowed down and life expectancy increased, and by taking the drug already in old age." Scientists plan to find out whether it is possible to eliminate the side effect in the form of a decrease in immunity in the course of further experiments.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru 09.07.2009

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