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Anti-aging drug breakthrough

By Stephen Morgan     Dec 27, 2014 in Lifestyle
The timeless quest for the fountain of youth has taken an important step forward with the successful testing of a new anti-aging drug.
Medical Express is reporting that scientists believe they have made the first concrete progress in delaying the effects of aging and improving overall health among senior citizens.
The drug rapamycin is an mTOR inhibitor and has already proved capable of counteracting aging and age-related diseases in animal trials, however, this is the first time this type of drug has been shown to delay the effects of aging in humans.
According to CBS News the drug, made by pharmaceutical company Novartis, targets a genetic signaling pathway linked to aging and immune function.
CBS quotes Dr. Joan Mannick, executive director of the New Indications Discovery Unit at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, who said that when they inhibited the mTOR pathway in mice, it seemed "to extend lifespan and delay the onset of aging-related illnesses."
Consequently, they decided to carry out a similar experiment on a group of elderly people and in an article published in the latest issue of Science Translational Medicine, researchers described how rapamycin was found to boost seniors' immune response to a flu vaccine by 20 percent.
200 people people aged 65 and older participated in the trials, receiving either the new drug or a placebo. Afterwards, they were administered a dose of flu vaccine. Medical Express says that the ones who took rapamycin developed about 20 percent more antibodies to the flu vaccine and had fewer white blood cells linked to age-related immune decline.
Aging and the ability to fight off infections are crucial to longevity. Seniors lose their ability to fight off diseases that younger people can more easily do. Influenza, for example, is especially dangerous for people of 65 years and older. Seniors account for nine out of 10 influenza-related deaths in the United States.
Dr. Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City explained that "Aging is the major risk factor for the killers we're afraid of," pointing out how the risk for heart disease, cancer and other deadly illnesses increases as people grow older. "If the aging is the major risk, the way to extend people's lives and improve their health is to delay aging." he added.
Dr Mannick described the results as the "first baby step" to developing immune-boosting medications for the elderly, but cautioned that, "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."
However, Barzilai was far more upbeat about the results, calling them a "watershed" in anti-aging and health improvements, which could revolutionize the treatment of age-related illnesses.
"It sets the stage for using this drug to target aging, to improve everything about aging," he said. "That's really going to be for us a turning point in research, and we are very excited."
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