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‘First baby step’ towards anti-aging drug

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Researchers have taken the first step to make a drug that can
delay the effects of aging and improve the health of older adults, a new
study suggests.
The experimental drug, a variant of the drug rapamycin, accelerated the seniors’ immune response to a flu vaccine by 20 percent. Researchers said in the current issue of Science Translational Medicine.
The study is a “watershed” moment for research into the health effects
of aging, said Dr. Nir Barzilai, Director of the Institute for Aging
Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
Rapamycin belongs to a category of drugs referred to as mTOR inhibitors, which have been shown to prevent aging and getting older-related illnesses in mice and other animals.Barzilai, who wasn’t involved in this research, mentioned this is likely one of the first studies to exhibit that these drugs can also delay the effects of aging in humans.”It sets the stage for using this drug to target aging, to improve
everything about aging,” Barzilai said. “That’s really going to be a turning point
for
us
in research, and we are very excited.”
The mTOR genetic pathway promotes healthy growth in the young. But it
appears to have a negative effect on mammals as they grow older, said
study lead author Dr. Joan Mannick, executive director of the New
Indications Discovery Unit at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical
Research.

When drugs like rapamycin are used to inhibit the effects of the mTOR
pathway in mice, they “seem to extend lifespan and delay the onset of
aging-related illnesses,” Mannick said.

Mannick and her colleagues decided to investigate whether a
rapamycin-like drug could reverse the natural decline that elderly
people experience in their ability to fight off infections.

In the clinical trial, more than 200 people age 65 and older randomly received either the experimental drug or a placebo for several weeks, followed by a dose of flu vaccine.
Flu is particularly hard on seniors, with people 65 and older
accounting for nine out of 10 influenza-related deaths in the United
States, according to background information provided by the researchers.

Those who received the experimental version of rapamycin developed
about 20 percent more antibodies in response to the flu vaccine,
researchers found. Even low doses of the medication produced an improved
immune response.

The researchers also found that the group given the drug generally had fewer white blood cells associated with age-related immune decline.

Mannick called this study the “first baby step,” and was reluctant to
say whether it could lead to immune-boosting medications for the
elderly.

Source: MedicalXpress
Reference Journal: Science Translational Medicine

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