It happened in mice experiments and was discovered quite accidentally.
The antibiotic, rapamycin has been shown to extend the life in laboratory mice. In these experiments the mice were given the antibiotic later in life, after 600 days, the equivalent of a person living to age 60, reports the New York Times. Most life extension interventions, including a low-calorie diet, are started early in life.
Rapamycin is used to suppress the immune system in transplant patients.
The experiments were conducted by researchers working at three institutions – Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine; the University of Michigan; and University of Texas Health Science Center. The teams were sponsored by the National Institute on Aging to test anti-aging drugs.
The effect on aging was seen when mice were fed the drug directly into the intestine after a dosage in the bloodstream was not working. By the time that happened the mice were elderly. The females lived 14 percent longer, and the males, males 9 percent longer.
David Harrison, a gerontologist at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor Maine and lead author on the paper, told The Scientist that extending life by 9 percent is significant.
Rapamycin is also used to show down the growth of cancerous tumors, so one theory is that it is actually halting tumors rather than fighting the aging effect. The Scientist reports that rapamycin works by inhibiting the processes that degrade cellular waste. The drug has been found to extend the life spans of yeast, fruit flies, and nematodes.
“It’s no longer irresponsible to say that following these up could lead to medicines that increase human life span by 10, 20 or 30 percent,” Dr. Richard A. Miller of the University of Michigan said to the Times.
The findings are reported in the July 8 online version of Nature.
The National Institute on Aging is studying aging through its Interventions Testing Program ( ITP), which will look at the effects of food, diets, pharmaceuticals, and nutraceuticals on aging.
Other studies will include the ingredient in red wine, resveratrol, that appears to mimic the effects of calorie restriction. The supplement company, Sirtris, offers a supplemental version of resveratrol. The CEO says the study so far shows “quite modest effects of resveratrol”. #