A new study has found that a particular cancer drug has the ability to extend life span. The finding is a shot in the arm for the scientists racing against time.
The study, published in the journal Nature Aging, showed that long-term treatment of healthy mice from middle age (one year) with a cancer medication can increase their lifespan by an average of 10% — roughly around three years.
In the study, led by researchers from the University of Auckland, the mice were divided into two groups. Both the groups were fed the same diet, with the addition of a drug called alpelisib in the test group’s meal. The mice that were fed the drug-containing diet lived longer, and also showed improved coordination and strength in old age, the study found.
“Aging is not only about lifespan but also about the quality of life,” research fellow Dr. Chris Hedges said, as per MedicalXpress. “Therefore, we were pleased to see this drug treatment not only increased the longevity of the mice but also showed many signs of healthier aging. We are working now to understand how this happens.”
However, the researchers warned against making too much out of the results. It is to be noted that the mice treated with the drug also exhibited a few negative markers of aging, like lower bone mass.
“We are not suggesting that anyone should go out and take this drug long-term to extend lifespan, as there are some side effects. However, this work identifies mechanisms crucial to aging that will be of use in our long-term efforts to increase lifespan and health span,” principal investigator Associate Professor Troy Merry explained.
“It also suggests a number of possible ways in which shorter-term treatments with this drug could be used to treat certain metabolic health conditions and we are following this up now,” Merry added.
The drug alpelisib targets an enzyme called PI 3-kinase. According to Professor Peter Shepherd, they have been working on developing drugs to target PI 3-kinase for more than two decades. This is mainly because many cancers have been seen to use an excessive activation of this pathway.
“Therefore, it’s great to see that these drugs might have uses in other areas and reveal novel mechanisms contributing to age-related diseases. It also shows the value of a long-term investment in research in areas such as this,” Shepherd said, as per the outlet.
Another recent study has found that a great option to reverse aging is to zap “zombie” cells with ultrasound waves. Having successfully experimented on older mice, researchers are now planning a clinical trial to check the safety and efficacy of the technique in humans. “‘Is this too good to be true?’ is the question I often ask. We are examining all aspects of it to see if it really does work,” lead author Professor Michael Sheetz from the University of Texas said.