BY: ZUZANNA WALTER
Anti-aging research is primed to impact the global structure of healthcare, with the Harvard Gazette reporting a series of opportunities focused on extending the human lifespan. The Boston-based Academy for Health and Lifespan Research launched in February, with a dual focus on promoting future work in anti-aging medicine and ensuring the factuality of information being disseminated. Reflecting on the immeasurable progress made in the field of aging, founding member and Harvard Medical School Genetics Professor David Sinclair believes that “we can develop medicines that will treat aging at its source and thereby have a much greater impact on health and lifespan than drugs that target a single disease.”
Increasingly, the use of bacteria derivatives as a form of anti-aging medicine has become a key element of longevity research. One such compound being tested for its ability to combat aging-related diseases is rapamycin, a bacteria native to Easter Island with proven effects on the immune system. Global healthcare company Novartis conducted a study of the rapamycin-derived drug everolimus in order to determine its efficacy in the responsiveness of flu vaccines in people over the age of 65. The results of this “first human aging trial” yielded an increase of flu vaccine responses of about 20 percent.
Rapamycin was initially fed to laboratory species as a potential method of lengthening their lifespan. Findings revealed that mice fed with the compound were expected to live, on average, 25 percent longer than their counterparts. Researchers have begun studies to test the effects of rapamycin on household pets, including a recent Seattle-based trial on 24 middle-aged dogs. While a longer, more extensive study involving a larger group of dogs is underway, the initial findings indicated an improvement in “diastolic and systolic age-related measures of heart function,” in addition to a decrease in mean corpuscular volume in rapamycin-treated canines.
Following the preliminary findings of positive responses to rapamycin in both human and animal anti-aging trails, Boston company PureTech Health announced its plan to license two Novartis-developed drugs to be used against aging-related diseases: serving as the foundational mission of its new startup resTORbio.
Currently, formal studies of rapamycin’s ability to postpone death in humans have not yet been conducted, as the very idea of “life-extension” is still viewed as an unconventional and unorthodox pursuit. Forthcoming anti-aging research efforts will aim to determine whether any drug can effectively slow or reverse the aging process. Rather than approaching mortality as a disease, healthcare companies have begun to target specific aging properties in an attempt to slow them down. In the modern age of increasing lifespan research methods, we can expect to see more results from companies such as Novartis surrounding the effects of targeted compounds that specifically delay the aging process.
* This article is a repost which originally appeared on The A4M Blog.