Soon, pill to reverse effects of ageing
Washington: Researchers have found a cause of ageing in animals that can be reversed, possibly paving the way for new treatments for age-related diseases including cancer, type 2 diabetes, muscle wasting and inflammatory diseases.
The research, led by UNSW Medicine's David Sinclair, found a series of molecular events enable communication inside cells between the mitochondria and the nucleus. As communication breaks down, ageing accelerates.
"The ageing process we discovered is like a married couple - when they are young, they communicate well, but over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down," UNSW Professor Sinclair, who is based at Harvard Medical School, said.
The background to the research is that as we age, levels of the chemical NAD, which starts this communication cascade, decline. Until now, the only way to slow the NAD drop was to restrict calories and exercise intensively.
In this work, the researchers used a compound that cells transform into NAD to repair the broken network and rapidly restore communication and mitochondrial function. It mimics the effects of diet and exercise.
Co-author Dr Nigel Turner, an ARC Future Fellow from UNSW's Department of Pharmacology, said if the compound is administered early enough in the ageing process, in just a week, the muscles of the older mice were indistinguishable from the younger animals.
The mice, which were two-years-old, also performed well on insulin resistance and inflammation- both of which are correlated with ageing. They were compared with six-month-old animals.
Dr Turner said it was a very pronounced effect. It's something like a 60-year-old being similar to a 20-year-old on some measures.
The younger mice given the same compound were "supercharged above normal level" on certain measures, according to Dr Turner. "So it is possible this would have benefits in healthy, young humans."
The study is published in the journal Cell.