A year ago the Methuselah Foundation presented a special Mprize Lifespan Achievement Award to Dave Sharp for his work with rapamycin. Science, Nature and TIME magazines each featured rapamycin – an antibiotic used in transplant patients that extended the life span of aged mice – as a significant and exciting scientific breakthrough.
More recently, Dave Sharp has announced that a second replication of the life span study has been repeated with the same results.
The drug, called rapamycin or sirolimus and marketed under the brand name Rapamune by Wyeth, suppresses the immune system but also fights inflammation, which underlies cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and a range of other ills.
“Rapamycin may extend lifespan by postponing death from cancer, by retarding mechanisms of aging, or both,” David Harrison of The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the journal Nature.
The researchers at several U.S. centers fed rapamycin capsules to the mice daily starting at the age of 600 days, an age equivalent to 60 years old in humans.
All the mice lived longer, they reported. Some lived as much as 55 per cent longer, but the effects varied.
“We believe this is the first convincing evidence that the aging process can be slowed and lifespan can be extended by a drug therapy starting at an advanced age,” said Randy Strong, of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, who worked on the study.