Ibuprofen stress apparently triggered longer life in yeast
Yeast cells like these lived longer when researchers dosed them with the drug ibuprofen.
Ibuprofen can banish headaches and soothe throbbing joints, but the drug may have another benefit. A new study shows that it increases longevity in lab organisms, raising the possibility it does the same thing in people.
Researchers used to scoff at the idea of extending life span, but it turns out to be surprisingly easy—at least in organisms such as mice and worms. Drugs that prolong survival of these creatures—aspirin and the antidiabetes compound metformin, for example—are already in many of our medicine cabinets. Several studies suggest that ibuprofen is also worth a look. Ibuprofen suppresses inflammation, which underlies many age-related diseases and might contribute to aging itself. In addition, people who take ibuprofen for a long time have a lower risk of developing two age-related illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, several analyses found.
Michael Polymenis and colleagues found that tryptophan levels declined in yeast cells exposed to ibuprofen. They also showed that the drug spurs destruction of a protein that enables cells to absorb tryptophan.
Ibuprofen doesn’t have a huge impact on tryptophan levels, though, decreasing them by about 15% to 20% in the yeast. To explain how this modest drop in tryptophan concentration promotes longevity, the researchers invoked a counterintuitive mechanism. Numerous studies have found that instead of killing organisms, moderate amounts of stress—such as intermediate doses of radiation or toxic chemicals—actually increase life span. A mild tryptophan deficiency triggered by ibuprofen might work in the same way, the researchers speculate. “We figure it’s one more type of stress that seems to be conducive to life span,” Polymenis says…
“There are two new good ideas here,” says gerontologist Richard Miller of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who is one of the participants in the U.S. National Institute on Aging’s Interventions Testing Program (ITP), in which researchers at three institutions are gauging whether a variety of compounds alter the life spans of mice. One is the revelation that “some anti-inflammatory drugs that people are taking may have beneficial effects that are unrelated to inflammation,” he says. The other is the possible involvement in the aging of proteins that transport amino acids into cells, which could lead researchers to new ways to tweak life span.
Nollen and Miller say the study supports testing ibuprofen in mice…
To folks who are impatient, Miller cautions against extrapolating the study’s results, especially because the side effects of long-term ibuprofen use can include fatal stomach bleeding. “I think any person who says, ‘Anything that works in yeast is something I want to take,’ is asking for trouble.”
I’ll second that thought.