New Class Of Drugs Could Increase Our Lifespan

Image via Shuttertsock

Bringing us one step closer to the day when we bow to a race of hyper-intelligent, immortal rodent overlords — or maybe just when we discover a treatment for the effects of aging — a research team has identified a new class of drugs that “dramatically” slows the aging process in mice. The researchers are wondering if they might someday be able do the same for humans.

The team, made up of researchers from the Scripps Institute, the Mayo Clinic and other institutions, recently published their results in the journal Aging Cell, coining the term “senolytics” for the new class of drugs, according to Science Daily. The drugs were shown to alleviate symptoms of frailty, improve cardiac function and extend a healthy lifespan.

The study focused on senescent cells — cells that have stopped dividing. These accumulate with age and accelerate the aging process, says Science Daily, so the researchers decided to see if they could kill off these cells. When this is done in mice, it enhances their healthspan, or time free of disease, and researchers wanted to find out if the same could be done in humans.

First, however, they had to figure out how to identify and eliminate senescent cells without harming other cells. They used transcript analysis to identify “pro-survival networks” that help senescent cells resist programmed cell death; this, according to Science Daily, led them to the cancer drug dasatinib (sold under the name Sprycel®) and quercetin, a natural compound that acts as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. Together, the two compounds were found to selectively induce the death of senescent cells — the first eliminated senescent human fat cell progenitors, while the second worked against senescent human endothelial cells and mouse bone marrow stem cells. Overall, a combination of the two was the most effective.

When the two substances were tested on mice, the results were remarkable. “In animal models, the compounds improved cardiovascular function and exercise endurance, reduced osteoporosis and frailty and extended healthspan,” said Associate Professor Laura Niedernhofer of Scripps Florida. “Remarkably, in some cases, these drugs did so with only a single course of treatment.”

According to Science Daily, a single dose of the two drugs together led to an improved capacity for exercise in animals that had been weakened by cancer radiation therapy. Older mice saw improved cardiovascular function within five days of a single dose. These effects reportedly lasted for at least seven months. “Periodic administration” of the drugs in mice with accelerated aging resulted in delays of age-related symptoms like osteoporosis and spine degeneration.

We won’t be able to simply take a drug and magically reverse aging just yet, though; much more testing is needed before these drugs can be used in humans. The research team appears optimistic, though.

We view this study as a big, first step toward developing treatments that can be given safely to patients to extend healthspan or to treat age-related diseases and disorders,” said Scripps Research Institute Professor Paul Robbins, who led the research at Scripps Florida along with Professor Niedernhofer. “When senolytic agents, like the combination we identified, are used clinically, the results could be transformative.”