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Longevity Briefs: Rapamycin found to extend the life of elderly mice

Posted on 8 October 2020

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology 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: To obtain the most considerable benefit from the majority of life-extending interventions the general consensus is that the earlier you begin the intervention the greater the impact it will have on extending life span. For instance, scientists recommend that to get the most benefit from calorie restriction, the most robustly certified method of life extension, the best time to start it in humans would be when you are around 20 years of age. To extend the life of elderly subjects is thought to be extremely difficult.

What did the researchers do: In a study published in 2009, researchers based at the Barshop Institute for longevity and aging studies, in the US, fed rapamycin to a group of 600 day old mice. 600 mice days roughly equates to 60 human years. Rapamycin is a drug which artificially stimulates the effects of calorie restriction. It inhibits the mTOR pathway, a molecular mechanism which has been found to be fundamental in the process of biological aging. Inhibition of the mTOR pathway results in anti-aging effects in a range of species, including: yeast, worms and flies.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: They found that compared to the control group, mice which did not consume rapamycin, the mice that did consume rapamycin lived 28% longer for males, and 38% longer for females. This study showed the first evidence of a life extension intervention being significantly effective in the final third of a mammals life. The life extension effects of rapamycin continues to be studied today.

Survival plots for male (left) and female (right) mice, comparing control mice to those fed rapamycin in the diet starting at 600 days of age. Source: Rapamycin fed late in life extends lifespan in genetically heterogeneous mice. DOI: 10.1038/nature08221

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