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April 21, 2008

New Drug Seeks to “Cure” Aging

New Drug Seeks to “Cure” Aging

Everyone wants to live longer. For centuries, humans have been searching for “the fountain of youth,” a magical elixir that would ward off the effects of aging.

Now a new drug has been developed by Sirtris Pharmaceuticals Inc. that holds great promise for extending life by decades, or even half a century. Researchers at the New York-based pharmaceutical company have created a new molecule that is similar in effect to the ingredient in red wine that has been linked to longevity and resilience in body cells.

Scientists hold great hope that the new molecule, which is thousands of times more powerful than the ingredient in red wine, resveratrol, can prolong aging, increase endurance, and ward off common diseases of aging such as diabetes, cancer, and diseases of the immune system.

The Boston Globe is reporting that researchers at Sirtris Pharmaceuticals Inc. tested more than half a million different molecules, searching for those with the ability to boost the immune system, and activate the enzyme known as SIRT1.

SIRT1 is credited with extending the life span of animals anywhere from 30 to 70%. So far, a variety of animals have been tested with the new molecule, ranging from common houseflies to mice, all with the same positive results.

Human testing of the new drug is scheduled to begin next year. David Sinclair, professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, sees an opportunity to, “put something into the food supply that will ward off and treat the diseases of aging in a single pill.”

So far, the only mammals to be tested with the new drug had been mice and rats, all of which responded with increased insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels. The drug also increased the virility of mitochondria, the “engines” of the cells that increase stamina and endurance.

The increase in mitochondria is especially exciting for researchers. When given to a normal mouse, it will run twice as far and exhibit far more endurance in all activities. The hope is that such a powerful energy boost could save lives, particularly when treating elderly people who may be in a weakened state.

While diseases of aging are notoriously complicated to combat, the advent of the new molecule could provide a “one-stop” alternative to eliminate, or lessen the effects of many age-related conditions. And with animal studies showing a 30 to 70% increase in lifespan, researchers are betting that human physiology will respond equally well to the new molecule, creating the potential to live decades longer, and with increased vitality.

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