I hope Dr. Hekimi tolerates an old cycling geek’s choice of photos. This is what he did for a living – before he became an eminent biologist.
Recent animal studies have shown that clioquinol – an 80-year old drug once used to treat diarrhea and other gastrointestinal disorders – can reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. Scientists, however, had a variety of theories to attempt to explain how a single compound could have such similar effects on three unrelated neurodegenerative disorders.
Researchers at McGill University have discovered a dramatic possible new answer: According to Dr. Siegfried Hekimi and colleagues at McGill’s Department of Biology, clioquinol acts directly on a protein called CLK-1, often informally called “clock-1,” and might slow down the aging process.
“Clioquinol is a very powerful inhibitor of clock-1,” explained Hekimi. “Because clock-1 affects longevity in invertebrates and mice, and because we’re talking about three age-dependent neurodegenerative diseases, we hypothesize that clioquinol affects them by slowing down the rate of aging…”
Hekimi is optimistic but cautious when asked whether clioquinol could eventually become an anti-aging treatment.
“The drug affects a gene which when inhibited can slow down aging,” he said. “The implication is that we can change the rate of aging. This might be why clioquinol is able to work on this diversity of diseases that are all age-dependent.”
However, he admits to being concerned about how people may interpret his results.
“The danger is that you can buy a kilogram of this compound at a chemical wholesaler, but we don’t want people to start experimenting on themselves. Clioquinol can be a very toxic substance if abused, and far more research is required.”
Please, please, heed Dr. Hekimi’s advice. I offer scientific tidbits like this because I find them interesting and encouraging. Because of my interest in science overall. That doesn’t mean you should start experimenting on your friends and neighbors. Please.