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Study: Anti-Aging Drugs Quadruple Life Span of Mice

Thursday, Nov 01 8:55 PM EST
By Michael Kahn

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Anti-oxidant drugs have quadrupled the life span of mice genetically engineered to live only a week, according to a new study that researchers say may represent a step toward unlocking the secrets of aging.

Simon Melov, a molecular gerontologist at the private, nonprofit Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, California, said on Thursday that the study builds on his previous research that used anti-oxidants to lengthen the life span of nematode worms. But he cautioned that it was one thing to extend the life of a worm or a genetically engineered mouse and another to make humans live longer.

Melov said the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed for the first time that these drugs work in making mammals live longer. We are starting to have a very good understanding of the types of damage that can arise in the aging process," he said.

Oxidation is the chemical reaction that causes metals to rust, but in cells, it can damage DNA, leading sometimes to cancer, other diseases and, many scientists believe, to the changes associated with aging.

Anti-oxidants include vitamins C and E.

The mice in Melov's study were genetically engineered to undergo a form of oxidative damage and without drugs only live about a week, allowing researchers to quickly see the results.

Melov explained that the drugs work by zeroing in on so-called free radicals -- toxic molecules produced in every cell in the body that are necessary pollutants in burning energy.

The anti-oxidant compounds move into cells and even into the mitochondria -- the centers of metabolism -- to counter the aging effects wrought by the free radicals.

The research showed the genetically-engineered mice lived about four weeks using the drugs -- four times longer than normal, Melov said.

"What this paper shows is these drugs are very effective against preventing oxidative damage in the brain," Melov said. "That may have utility in diseases like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

He said the next step in the research will be to use the anti-oxidants in normal mice.

"If the evidence continues to accumulate in relation to the effectiveness of these drugs against free radical damage related to aging, then I don't think its an improbable prediction that they will be effective in prolonging life span in mammals," Melov said.

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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is nutritional in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

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Last modified: June 28, 2015