Researchers take 'first baby step' toward anti-aging drug

December 24, 2014 by Dennis Thompson, Healthday Reporter
Inhibiting the mTOR pathway in 200 elderly volunteers improved immune function, as measured by their response to an influenza vaccine. Credit: V. Altounian/Science Translational Medicine

Researchers could be closing in on a "fountain of youth" drug that can delay the effects of aging and improve the health of older adults, a new study suggests.

Seniors received a significant boost to their immune systems when given a drug that targets a genetic signaling pathway linked to aging and immune function, researchers with the drug maker Novartis report.

The experimental medication, a version of the drug rapamycin, improved the seniors' to a by 20 percent, researchers said in the current issue of Science Translational Medicine.

The study is a "watershed" moment for research into the health effects of aging, said Dr. Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

Rapamycin belongs to a class of drugs known as mTOR inhibitors, which have been shown to counteract aging and aging-related diseases in mice and other animals.

Barzilai, who wasn't involved in the study, said this is one of the first studies to show that these drugs also can delay the effects of aging in humans.

"It sets the stage for using this drug to target aging, to improve everything about aging," Barzilai said. "That's really going to be for us a turning point in research, and we are very excited."

The mTOR genetic pathway promotes healthy growth in the young. But it appears to have a negative effect on mammals as they grow older, said study lead author Dr. Joan Mannick, executive director of the New Indications Discovery Unit at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research.

When drugs like rapamycin are used to inhibit the effects of the mTOR pathway in mice, they "seem to extend lifespan and delay the onset of aging-related illnesses," Mannick said.

Mannick and her colleagues decided to investigate whether a rapamycin-like drug could reverse the natural decline that elderly people experience in their ability to fight off infections.

In the clinical trial, more than 200 people 65 and older randomly received either the experimental drug or a placebo for several weeks, followed by a dose of flu vaccine.

Flu is particularly hard on seniors, with people 65 and older accounting for nine out of 10 influenza-related deaths in the United States, according to background information provided by the researchers.

Those who received the experimental version of rapamycin developed about 20 percent more antibodies in response to the flu vaccine, researchers found. Even low doses of the medication produced an improved immune response.

The researchers also found that the group given the generally had fewer white blood cells associated with age-related immune decline.

Mannick called this study the "first baby step," and was reluctant to say whether it could lead to immune-boosting medications for the elderly.

"It's very important to point out that the risk/benefit of MTOR inhibitors should be established in clinical trials before anybody thinks this could be used to treat aging-related conditions," she said.

Barzilai was more enthusiastic. Research such as this could revolutionize the way age-related illnesses are treated, he said.

"Aging is the major risk factor for the killers we're afraid of," he said, noting that people's risk for heart disease, cancer and other deadly illnesses increases as they grow older. "If the aging is the major risk, the way to extend people's lives and improve their health is to delay aging."

Until science focuses on aging itself, "you're just exchanging one disease for another," Barzilai said. For example, he said, a person receiving cholesterol-lowering treatment to prevent heart disease likely will instead fall prey to cancer or Alzheimer's disease.

Explore further: Rapamycin effective in mouse model of inherited heart disease and muscular dystrophies

More information: "mTOR inhibition improves immune function in the elderly," by J.B. Mannick et al. Science Translational Medicine, stm.sciencemag.org/lookup/doi/10.1126/scitranslmed.3009892

Related Stories

A lifespan-extending drug has limited effects on aging

July 25, 2013

The immunosuppressive drug rapamycin has been shown to increase longevity in mice even when treatment begins at an advanced age. It is unclear if the extension of life also correlates with prolonged health and vigor.

Recommended for you

Scientist identify first steps in muscle regeneration

May 20, 2016

Scientists from Monash University's Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute ARMI have found the first real evidence of how muscles may be triggered to regenerate or heal when damaged. The research could open the way to ...

17 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Whydening Gyre
3.5 / 5 (6) Dec 24, 2014
And....who decides who will get it....?
hurricane25
1.4 / 5 (11) Dec 24, 2014
I'd say the people that have the cash should get it. If you worked hard all your life, why not?
hurricane25
1 / 5 (5) Dec 24, 2014
How do we economically give it to everyone for the people that disagree with my suggestion?
jumbonaoki
5 / 5 (2) Dec 24, 2014
It's funny when people read the (in my view somewhat irresponsible) first sentence and begin shouting "let the people have it!".

Nobody should "get it". Because rapamycin is used to suppress the immune system of transplant patients to prevent rejection. That's nice if you're trying to live after a transplant but the side effects are lung toxicity, cancer risk, and diabetes like symptoms. And if you read the article you'll notice that there aren't any anti-aging or reverse-aging effects other than a slight change in immune response to the flu virus in elderly people. The drug may also have beneficial effects for people with MS or Alzheimers but that's not anything like a "fountain of youth".
nanotech_republika_pl
5 / 5 (1) Dec 24, 2014
You have a few years old car that starts to have problems here and there but it is still drivable. You ask a mechanic to fix the problems. But instead of fixing them, the mechanic offers you to slow further damage by 20%. How would you like that?

Why not to fix the problems? Why not to bring back the car to how it was when it was new? There are scientists working on methods for just doing that.

See sens.org
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (6) Dec 24, 2014
Nobody should "get it". Because rapamycin is used to suppress the immune system of transplant patients to prevent rejection. That's nice if you're trying to live after a transplant but the side effects are lung toxicity, cancer risk, and diabetes like symptoms. And if you read the article you'll notice that there aren't any anti-aging or reverse-aging effects other than a slight change in immune response to the flu virus in elderly people. The drug may also have beneficial effects for people with MS or Alzheimers but that's not anything like a "fountain of youth".

This is about a NEW version of rapamycin, not the standard in use one. (second sentence).
As to who should get it, you sound rather elitist in your disdain for anyone asking the question. Why?
Steve 200mph Cruiz
4.3 / 5 (6) Dec 25, 2014
Now I can spend 30 more years giving Dick Cheney and Dave Koch more of my money so they can live longer and take more of my money, sweet.
andygiata
4 / 5 (4) Dec 25, 2014
And....who decides who will get it....?


I'd say the people that have the cash should get it. If you worked hard all your life, why not?


Both two ignorant comments. It's a tested drug. A drug's purpose is to be taken by everyone possible. Also, an ignorant comment to suggest the people with cash should get it, because that would suggest that everybody in this planet is paid fairly for their work. Such a capitalistic notion has not been true at least since the 50's. How about if hypothetically this drug was allowed to be sold in masses, the pharmaceutical companies sold it at a fairly average price so that everybody could get their hands on it AND so that the company that would sell it could make money? then everybody would be happy. merry christmas
nerissa_ab
5 / 5 (3) Dec 25, 2014
Anthocyanins, the red to purple color in many plants, are natural mTOR inhibitors. Eat a healthy diet or eat poorly and take the dangerous drug, Rapamycin.

viko_mx
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 25, 2014

Scientists propose extending the life for a few years with synthetic chemistry for a fee, while God will give eternal life and incorruptible bodies of people who take it in their hearts only with faith and love. Everyone has a choice. It would be interesting to discover the secrets of the universe unlimited by time and space.
teslaberry
5 / 5 (4) Dec 25, 2014
snake oil has and always will be a great business.
Osiris1
5 / 5 (6) Dec 25, 2014
Hmmm, people with cash worked hard all their lives...Yeah right! That would work out in the real world to evil crooks, oligarchs, whores, and politicians being the favored few. I suppose that one of their number would claim 'devine right', too. Look around you, what to hard workers REALLY get except the shaft, a gold nanoplated chinese watch, and a kick in the butt just before vesting in their pie in the sky worthless retirements. My neighbor worked 32 years for Kirsch Corp. His pension: $22 dollars a month. Yeah! You read it right! He had to abandon his house of 30 years and move in with his alcoholic brother in Florida cuz he had lived on welfare and had a lot of kids, grandkids, etc. to help support his discarded ass. He died a few years later a broken man. His wife a few months later. No one 'gets rich' by just 'working'. You have to go in to 'business' and cheat just like the other crooks....foundation of capitalism: Labor worth nothing, keep secrets, acquire!
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Dec 25, 2014
It would be interesting to discover the secrets of the universe unlimited by time and space.

Viko,
While I question faith in a deity that claims he/she/it is the only one and makes seemingly impossible promises, I DO agree with your last sentence....
Osiris,
Easy answer? Learn how to cheat, too...
barakn
5 / 5 (1) Dec 26, 2014
How do we economically give it to everyone for the people that disagree with my suggestion?

If it truly reduces the incidence of aging-related diseases, it would pay for itself many times over.
sirchick
5 / 5 (1) Dec 26, 2014
It says "Delays the effects of aging" - basically ailments you develop from aging...

But you still age as per the laws of physics - even the universe ages so to suggest we can cheat it - is nonsense.

This whole "anti-aging" and fountain of youth wording is really misleading those who are not scientific into false believe that we slowly working out ways to live for 500 years or something really silly like that.

Unless we can find can find a way to fix the loss of DNA data as DNA gets copied - we will always age.
zaxxon451
not rated yet Dec 30, 2014
Hmmm, people with cash worked hard all their lives...Yeah right! I suppose that one of their number would claim 'devine right', too. Look around you, what to hard workers REALLY get except the shaft, a gold nanoplated chinese watch, and a kick in the butt just before vesting in their pie in the sky worthless retirements. My neighbor worked 32 years for Kirsch Corp. His pension: $22 dollars a month. Yeah! You read it right! He had to abandon his house of 30 years and move in with his alcoholic brother in Florida cuz he had lived on welfare and had a lot of kids, grandkids, etc. to help support his discarded ass. No one 'gets rich' by just 'working'. You have to go in to 'business' and cheat just like the other crooks....foundation of capitalism


The rich have been waging war against the poor for generations. Only through class solidarity do we have any hope.
yvchawla
1 / 5 (1) Jan 03, 2015
Body decays and brain slows down not with the passage of time but when the auto renewal process is vitiated. And the auto renewal process is vitiated when brain is not interested (or less interested) in actual functioning, in actual usage, in actual interaction, with possessions, relations, situations, ideas but in seeking stable relief through them or becomes complacent in respect of possessions, relations and so on.It escapes the uneasiness of disturbing the complacency. This escaping conceals the friction (it is uneasiness for the present brain), which is the basis of auto renewal.To bear the continuous friction of modification attunes one to inexhaustible energy.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.