Through the ages, most cultures have searched for the elusive fountain of youth, the elixir for eternal life. It seems researchers are one step closer to this goal with the discovery of a new class of drugs that can slow aging.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic, The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), and other medical institutions identified the drugs which they call Senolytics, then published their findings in the journal Aging Cell. They released their findings ahead of the print edition on March 9th.
The researchers started their study by looking at two compounds, one a natural compound called quercetin which is sold as an antihistimine and anti-inflammatory supplement, and the other a cancer drug known as dasatinib or Sprycel. Dasatinib works well with human endothelial cells and bone marrow stem cells, while quercetin works well with fat cells.
When the researchers combined the cancer drug and supplement, then treated mice and human cells in a cell culture, they found that the combination killed off senescent cells. Senescent cells are older, living cells that are no longer dividing but accumulate in the body. By ridding the body of senescent cells, the damaged cells are gone and younger cells can take their place, basically giving the body an overhaul with a fresh set of cells.
The combination of the two compounds was important because it can be difficult to rid the body of one type of cells without affecting others. When attacked, senescent cells can go into survival mode, but the two compounds were able to work together to kill the targeted cells.
Even with a single treatment, the compound combination was able to reduce osteoporosis and frailty, increase exercise endurance, improve heart health, and generally extend the lifespan of the mice. After a treatment with the Senolytic drugs, the mice spent more time free of disease, which led to what scientists dubbed a longer healthspan. The treatment also helped mice who had experienced radiation treatments, helping them to regain their endurance and strength within five days and with effects lasting about seven months.
The researchers tout the ability of the new drugs to target a wide variety of diseases and symptoms. This could be an easier approach than the traditional method of treating each disease separately. Often older patients take a range of medications each day for a variety of medical conditions, sometimes with medication interactions and side effects.
The possibilities for the new anti-aging drugs are endless. They could potentially help prevent and treat age-related diseases like osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, reduce an aged appearance such as wrinkled skin, and generally extend the lifespan and improve a patient’s quality of life free of age-related diseases. In patients with multiple age-related diseases, the new drug could potentially replace an entire regiment of various drugs, helping patients manage their diseases with less medications, which means less potential interactions and less chance of missing a dose of one drug.
The new drugs could one day help doctors delay, prevent, and even reverse age-related diseases, giving older patients a new lease on life. As encouraging as the results are, the new drugs are yet to be tested on humans and possible side effects are not known. Time will tell if aging patients could one day swallow a simple pill to live a longer, healthier life free of age-related disease.