Aging is a normal process. But in the books of science, the process of aging brings with itself myriads of diseases and problems which need to be kept at bay. And scientists are positive that if aging can be reversed most of the diseases would not occur.
The latest study done on anti aging effects of the experimental drug, rapamycin, was led by Dr. Joan Mannick, who is a researcher at the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research.
For their study, more than 200 people aged 65 or older were randomized to receive either the experimental drug or the placebo. The aim of the study was to see if the drug, which is an inhibitor of the mTOR pathway, was indeed an anti-aging agent or if it decreased the consequences of aging. In animal models, there has been a decrease in the onset of a number of age related diseases associated with mTOR pathway inhibition.
“The mTOR genetic pathway promotes healthy growth in the young. But it appears to have a negative effect on mammals as they grow older,” explained Mannick.
The people who were a part of the study were than evaluated for the effects of the drugs. They were given a flu shot which is particularly dangerous for the elderly, since 90% of the deaths due to flu involve the elderly patients in the U.S. The patients showed a 20% increase in the number of antibodies against the flu shot.
The drug reduces the number of T cells which express the programmed death 1 (PD-1) receptor. PD-1 receptor has been known to down regulate the T cell signalling and is predominantly greatly expressed in old age and promotes the decline of immunity.
The drugs which inhibit the mTOR pathway “seem to extend lifespan and delay the onset of aging-related illnesses,” in the study subjects. Although this particular finding seems to be one of the great breakthroughs, Mannick says that caution should be exercised where drugs are concerned.
“It’s very important to point out that the risk/benefit of mTOR inhibitors should be established in clinical trials before anybody thinks this could be used to treat aging-related conditions,” she said.