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Fountain of Youth Drug Discovered on Easter Island

John on June 30, 2011 at 3:06 am

Real life is often stranger and more wonderful than the movies. Case in point, a potential life-extending miracle drug discovered in the soil of one of the most remote places on earth:

Rapamycin, which is already used to suppress the immune system in organ transplants, was created from a bacterium found in the soil on Easter Island – which lies more than 2,000 miles off Chile and is one of the most remote and mysterious places on the planet.

Dr Collins, director of the U.S. government’s health research labs and one of the scientists who cracked the human genome, studied the effect of the drug on skin cells from three children with HGPS.

The disease causes levels of a mutant protein called progerin to build up inside every cell of the body, producing defects and rapidly ageing the cells.

Treating them with the drug flushed the poisonous protein out of the cells and reversed the defects, effectively making them healthy again. What is more, the cells lived longer, the journal Science Translational Medicine reports.

Easter Island is Rapa Nui in polynesian. I’m guessing that’s where the name Raya-mycin came from.
The drug has been tested in invertebrates and found to extend their lifespans. It was also tested in mice a couple years ago and had the same effect. In fact, the mice lived much longer than normal even though they only took the drug in their old age:

researchers found that rapamycin given to mice as a food supplement starting at 20 months of age–the equivalent of 60 years in humans–extended average life span by 9 percent in males and 13 percent in females. “It’s particularly exciting because it works so late in life to extend life span,” says Sinclair. “The fact that you can give a drug after 20 months of age in a mouse and still see a life-span extension is striking.”

That was in 2009. The progeria study appears to be brand new. However, there is still a downside to this. Rapamycin is an immune-suppresant used on transplant patients. So you might live much longer taking it, but could be sick all the time. The real hope is to find a similar drug that has the benefits without the immune compromising factor. Sign me up for the first trials.

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