Does it make your nose bigger, too?
The giant monoliths of Easter Island are worn, but they have endured for centuries. New research suggests that a compound first discovered in the soil of the South Pacific island might help us stand the test of time, too.
On July 8, the journal Nature…reported that the Easter Island compound – called “rapamycin” after the island’s Polynesian name, Rapa Nui – extended the expected lifespan of middle-aged mice by 28 percent to 38 percent. In human terms, this would be greater than the predicted increase in extra years of life if cancer and heart disease were both cured and prevented.
The rapamycin was given to the mice at an age equivalent to 60 years old in humans…
Discovered in the 1970s, rapamycin was first noted for its anti-fungal properties and later was used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients. It also is used in stents, which are implanted in patients during angioplasty to keep coronary arteries open. It is in clinical trials for the treatment of cancer…
“We believe this is the first convincing evidence that the aging process can be slowed and lifespan can be extended by a drug therapy starting at an advanced age,” said Randy Strong, Ph.D., who directs the NIA-funded Aging Interventions Testing Center in San Antonio.
“In addition,” Dr. Z. Dave Sharp said, “the findings have immediate implications for preventive medicine and human health, in that rapamycin is already in clinical usage…”
The original goal was to begin feeding the mice at 4 months of age, but because of a delay caused by developing the new formulation, the mice were not started until they were 20 months old – the equivalent of 60 years of age in humans. The teams decided to try the rapamycin intervention anyway.
“I did not think that it would work because the mice were too old when the treatment was started,” Dr. Richardson said. “Most reports indicate that calorie restriction doesn’t work when implemented in old animals. The fact that rapamycin increases lifespan in relatively old mice was totally unexpected.”
Added Dr. Strong: “This study has clearly identified a potential therapeutic target for the development of drugs aimed at preventing age-related diseases and extending healthy lifespan. If rapamycin, or drugs like rapamycin, works as envisioned, the potential reduction in overall health cost for the U.S. and the world will be enormous.”
The looneybirds will be offering capsules stuffed with Easter Island dirt within the month. As seen on TV.