Saturday, 10 October 2009


The quest for prolonged youthfulness has now migrated from the outer fringes of alternative medicine to the halls of Harvard Medical School.

At a conference on aging held there talks where held about ‘Resveratrol,’ a chemical found in some red wines. Resveratrol has been found to activate proteins called ‘Sirtuins.’ Activation of sirtuins is thought to help the body ride out famines.

Mice and rats put on a diet with 30 percent fewer calories can live up to 40 percent longer. Sirtris’s researchers think that drugs that activate sirtuins mimic this process, strengthening the body’s resistance to the diseases of aging.

In mice, sirtuin activators are effective against lung and colon cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, said David Sinclair, a Harvard Medical School researcher. The drugs reduce inflammation, and if they have the same effects in people, could help combat many diseases that have an inflammatory component, like irritable bowel syndrome and glaucoma.

Many theories of aging attribute the build-up of mutations in a person’s DNA. Dr. Sinclair said that in his view “aging can be reversed” because the DNA mutations did not directly cause aging. Rather, they induce the sirtuin molecules that help control the genome to divert to the site of damage. With the sirtuins absent from their usual post, genes are not regulated efficiently, and the cells’ performance degrades. Diversion of the sirtuins should be a reversible process, in Dr. Sinclair’s view, unlike DNA damage, which is not.

The quest for longevity drugs is founded on solid and promising research. But most drugs fail at some stage during trials. So there is no guarantee that any of Sirtris’s candidate compounds will work in people. The first result from a Phase 2 clinical trial is not expected until the end of next year at the earliest.

Meanwhile, it is a pleasant and not wholly unfounded thought that, just possibly, a single drug might combat every degenerative disease of Western civilization. So in about 5 or 6 or 7 years there may be drugs that prolong longevity.
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