July 22, 2008

LONGEVITY RESEARCH UPDATE: Here’s more on SIRT-1 activators:

The new drugs are called sirtuin activators, meaning that they activate an enzyme called sirtuin. The basic theory is that all or most species have an ancient strategy for riding out famines: switch resources from reproduction to tissue maintenance. A healthy diet but with 30 percent fewer calories than usual triggers this reaction in mice and is the one intervention that reliably increases their life span. The mice seem to live longer because they are somehow protected from the usual diseases that kill them.

But most people cannot keep to a diet with a 30 percent cut in calories, so a drug that could activate the famine reflex might be highly desirable. . . . The Sirtris drug being tested in diabetic patients is a special formulation of resveratrol that delivers a bloodstream dose five times as high as the chemical alone. This drug, called SRT501, has passed safety tests and, at least in small-scale trials, has reduced the patients’ glucose levels.

The other drug is a small synthetic chemical that is a thousand times as potent as resveratrol in activating sirtuin and can be given at a much smaller dose. Safety tests in people have just started, with no adverse effects so far. . . . Mice on the drugs generally remain healthy right until the end of their lives and then just drop dead.“If they work in people that way, one would look to an extension of health span, with an extension of life as a possible side effect,” Dr. Guarente said. “It would necessitate changing ideas about when people retire and when they stop paying into the system.”

GlaxoSmithKline could put SRT501, its resveratrol formulation, on the market right away, selling it as a natural compound and nutritional pharmaceutical that does not require approval by the F.D.A. “We haven’t made any decisions, but that clearly is an option,” Dr. Vallance said.

Read the whole thing. And let’s hope this stuff pans out, though it’s merely a foretaste of what we’ll (probably) see in the coming decades. Meanwhile, here’s a transcript of Gregory Stock’s presentation on aging research at the UCLA Aging conference. “Certainly, if human lifespan is immutable, then more health is a great thing, but our true aspirations are not for compressed morbidity. They are for longer, healthier lives. What is amazing is that this aspiration is actually a plausible goal today. So, why not go for it? . . . More life without more health would not be of great value. And, ironically, this seems to be the focus of a great deal of medicine today.”

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