The drugs mimic the benefits of diet and exercise, but have no effect on weight, say researchers
(Source: Kzenon/iStockphoto)

 

Science of anti-ageing drugs ‘validated’

Friday, 8 March 2013
Anna Salleh
ABC

Drugs to combat diseases of ageing have moved closer with the mechanism critical to their development validated, say researchers developing the drugs.

Their findings, reported today in the journal Science, follow criticisms that the experimental design behind the original claims was flawed.

“We show the original studies were valid,” says team leader Professor David Sinclair of the University of New South Wales and Harvard Medical School.

The results have implications for the development of drugs that could be take by middle-aged people to stave off age-related conditions such as type-2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

The drugs take advantage of sirtuins, which are enzymes that protect the body from ageing by, among other things, revving up mitochondria.

Sirtuins are switched on naturally by calorie restriction and exercise. But in 2003 Sinclair and colleagues discovered one particular sirtuin, SIRT1, could also be activated by resveratrol – the chemical that has given red wine a good rap – and other molecules.

In 2006, the researchers also showed middle-aged obese mice fed resveratrol were protected from many different diseases of ageing and lived 15 per cent longer than untreated obese mice, despite the drug having no effect on the mice’s weight.

Thus began the development drugs that could have an even more powerful effect than natural resveratrol.

“These molecules mimic the benefits of dieting and exercise,” says Sinclair. “When we diet and exercise, we get more mitochondria – we get fitter and healthier … We are seeing the same those biochemical effects in the mice that we treat.”

“If the mouse studies are right and we can make a drug that does what the anti-ageing pathway does, we could have a revolution in medicine.”

Sinclair is scientific advisor of a company called SIRTRIS, which was spun out of his Harvard lab in 2005 and bought by pharmaceutical giant GSK for $720 million in 2008.

Read more: Science of anti-ageing drugs 'validated' › News in Science (ABC Science).

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