Posted on 6 April 2021
Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.
Why is this research important: Rapamycin is a compound that is secreted by the bacterium Streptomyces hygroscopicus, famously isolated on the island of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island. It acts as a defence system, killing any surrounding fungi. It was quickly found that rapamycin had immunosuppressive qualities and was approved by the FDA for the treatment of transplant patients to reduce the risk of organ rejection.
In 2009, a serendipitous discovery by the Barshop Institute for longevity and ageing studies found that when administered to mice in the later third of their life, rapamycin significantly extends lifespan, by up to 14%. Since that study, rapamycin has been found to convey a life extending effect on almost every animal model tested; from yeast to non-human primates. There have been a growing number of calls from the geroscience community to begin human clinical testing of the drug.
What did the researchers do: As an answer to the community, the Barshop Institute has recently launched the Rapamycin – Effect on Alzheimer’s and cognitive health, or REACH, trial, which is scheduled to begin in April 2021. The study will be recruiting 40 participants, between the ages of 55 to 89 years of age, who have been diagnosed with MCI or early stage AD. The patients will be administered a daily dose of 1mg of rapamycin (Sirolimus), or placebo, for 12 months to determine the safety and tolerability of the drug.
Key takeaway(s) from this research: Although primary endpoints for this phase 1/2 clinical trial will be centred around the number of adverse events, and general toxicity, secondary endpoints will be collected to gather data on the efficacy of this dose of rapamycin on MCI and AD. The results should tell us a whole lot more about the potential of rapamycin as a viable treatment for ageing in humans.