Scientists unveil a giant leap for anti-aging

March 23, 2017, University of New South Wales
Researchers have discovered a protein complex in humans that helps protect cells from DNA damage. The finding could be helpful for astronauts in space, who are at greater risk of DNA damage from cosmic radiation. Credit: David Sinclair, Harvard Medical School

UNSW researchers have made a discovery that could lead to a revolutionary drug that actually reverses ageing, improves DNA repair and could even help NASA get its astronauts to Mars.

In a paper published in Science today, the team identifies a critical step in the molecular process that allows cells to repair damaged DNA.

Their experiments in mice suggest a treatment is possible for DNA damage from ageing and radiation. It is so promising it has attracted the attention of NASA, which believes the treatment can help its Mars mission.

While our cells have an innate capability to repair DNA damage—which happens every time we go out into the sun, for example - their ability to do this declines as we age.

The scientists identified that the metabolite NAD+, which is naturally present in every cell of our body, has a key role as a regulator in protein-to-protein interactions that control DNA repair.

Treating mice with a NAD+ precursor, or "booster," called NMN improved their cells' ability to repair DNA damage caused by radiation exposure or old age.

"The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice, after just one week of treatment," said lead author Professor David Sinclair of UNSW School of Medical Sciences and Harvard Medical School Boston.

Human trials of NMN therapy will begin within six months.

"This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that's perhaps only three to five years away from being on the market if the trials go well," says Sinclair, who maintains a lab at UNSW in Sydney.

What it means for , , and the rest of us:

The work has excited NASA, which is considering the challenge of keeping its astronauts healthy during a four-year mission to Mars.

Even on short missions, astronauts experience accelerated ageing from , suffering from muscle weakness, memory loss and other symptoms when they return. On a trip to Mars, the situation would be far worse: five per cent of the astronauts' cells would die and their chances of cancer would approach 100 per cent.

Professor Sinclair and his UNSW colleague Dr Lindsay Wu were winners in NASA's iTech competition in December last year.

"We came in with a solution for a biological problem and it won the competition out of 300 entries," Dr Wu says.

Professor David Sinclair and his UNSW team. Credit: Britta Campion

Cosmic radiation is not only an issue for astronauts. We're all exposed to it aboard aircraft, with a London-Singapore-Melbourne flight roughly equivalent in radiation to a chest x-ray.

In theory, the same treatment could mitigate any effects of DNA damage for frequent flyers.The other group that could benefit from this work is survivors of childhood cancers.

Dr Wu says 96 per cent of childhood cancer survivors suffer a chronic illness by age 45, including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and cancers unrelated to the original cancer.

"All of this adds up to the fact they have accelerated ageing, which is devastating," he says.

"It would be great to do something about that, and we believe we can with this molecule."

An anti-ageing pill could be on the horizon:

For the past four years, Professor Sinclair and Dr Wu have been working on making NMN into a drug substance with their companies MetroBiotech NSW and MetroBiotech International.

The human trials will begin this year at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston.

The findings on NAD+ and NMN add momentum to the exciting work the UNSW Laboratory for Ageing Research has done over the past four years.

They've been looking at the interplay of a number of proteins and molecules and their roles in the ageing process.

They had already established that NAD+ could be useful for treating various diseases of ageing, female infertility and also treating side effects of chemotherapy.

In 2003, Professor Sinclair made a link between the anti-ageing enzyme SIRT1 and resveratrol, a naturally occurring molecule found in tiny quantities in red wine.

"While resveratrol activates SIRT1 alone, NAD+ boosters activate all seven sirtuins, SIRT1-7, and should have an even greater impact on health and longevity," he says.

Explore further: Anti-ageing drug breakthrough

More information: "A conserved NAD+ binding pocket that regulates protein-protein interactions during aging," Science, science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126/science.aad8242

Related Stories

Anti-ageing drug breakthrough

March 8, 2013
Drugs that combat ageing may be available within five years, following landmark work led by an Australian researcher. The work, published in the March 8 issue of Science, finally proves that a single anti-ageing enzyme in ...

Fighting the aging process at a cellular level

September 22, 2016
It was about 400 BC when Hippocrates astutely observed that gluttony and early death seemed to go hand in hand. Too much food appeared to 'extinguish' life in much the same way as putting too much wood on a fire smothers ...

New protein discovered in aging and cancer

March 7, 2017
A protein has been found to have a previously unknown role in the ageing of cells, according to an early study by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). The researchers hope that the findings could one day lead to new treatments ...

Bone drug protects stem cells from ageing

December 17, 2015
Stem cells can be protected from the effects of ageing by a drug currently used to treat patients with osteoporosis, a breakthrough study has found.

Faster biological ageing could increase risk for depression in childhood

February 24, 2017
Genetic factors which predispose people to accelerated 'biological ageing' also increase their risk of developing depression in childhood, according to a new study from King's College London.

Youthful DNA in old age

September 22, 2016
The DNA of young people is regulated to express the right genes at the right time. With the passing of years, the regulation of the DNA gradually gets disrupted, which is an important cause of ageing. A study of over 3,000 ...

Recommended for you

A Trojan Horse delivery for treating a rare, potentially deadly, blood-clotting disorder

September 21, 2018
In proof-of-concept experiments, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have highlighted a potential therapy for a rare but potentially deadly blood-clotting disorder, TTP. The researchers deliver this therapeutic ...

Japanese team creates human oogonia using human stem cells in artificial mouse ovaries

September 21, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in Japan has successfully generated human oogonia inside of artificial mouse ovaries using human stem cells. In their paper published in the journal Science, the ...

Researchers explore how changes in diet alter microbiome in artificial intestine

September 21, 2018
Using an artificial intestine they created, researchers have shown that the microbiome can quickly adapt from the bacterial equivalent of a typical western diet to one composed exclusively of dietary fats. That adaptation ...

A new approach to developing a vaccine against vivax malaria

September 21, 2018
A novel study reports an innovative approach for developing a vaccine against Plasmodium vivax, the most prevalent human malaria parasite outside sub-Saharan Africa. The study led by Hernando A. del Portillo and Carmen Fernandez-Becerra, ...

Study identifies stem cell that gives rise to new bone and cartilage in humans

September 20, 2018
A decade-long effort led by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists has been rewarded with the identification of the human skeletal stem cell.

Scientists grow human esophagus in lab

September 20, 2018
Scientists working to bioengineer the entire human gastrointestinal system in a laboratory now report using pluripotent stem cells to grow human esophageal organoids.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bongstar420
not rated yet Mar 23, 2017
Rest assured, some rich people will get richer off this and no one will benefit unless they contribute to that process.
IronhorseA
not rated yet Mar 23, 2017
If its easy enough to make, and it looks like it would be, home chemists will make it and make money. They do it with many illegal drugs, but no one would want to stop this.


The IP holders would. :P

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.