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Human trials under way for anti-aging drug

Created date

August 22nd, 2014
Easter Island
Easter Island

A drug discovered 50 years ago is being studied in humans for its so-called “fountain of youth” attributes.

Called rapamycin, it is used as an antibiotic and an immunosuppressant—mostly for people who have had organ transplants. It was first discovered in the soil at Easter Island in the South Pacific.  

Research results show that mice who were fed rapamycin were more physically fit; had better heart and brain health; developed fewer cancers, and lived quite a bit longer than mice fed normal diets. The drug appears to work by targeting critical functions of cells throughout the body.

Rapamycin appears to mimic the effect of another anti-aging strategy—dietary restriction. Study results have demonstrated that mice that have their daily calories restricted by 40% live almost one-third longer than mice on a regular diet. In humans, people in certain Asian cultures who eat fewer calories have also been shown to have longer lifespans. Scientists believe that both rapamycin and dietary restriction have a similar effect on the body’s cells.

Rapamycin is also being studied for prevention and treatment of conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, cognitive problems, and numerous cancers. It is far from perfect, however.

Rapamycin can cause insulin resistance in animals and humans, which can lead to diabetes. 

If you’d rather not take a pill or slash your daily calories to stay young, try another proven anti-aging strategy—exercise every day. Physical activity is the only treatment that has been consistently proven to benefit practically everyone, whether you’re healthy or have medical problems.