A recent study shows that a new experimental drug could boost by up to 20 percent the immune response in elderly people, as well as helping them to delay other aging effects. Researchers said that the new study was just the “first baby step” in the anti-aging fight since they needed more clinical data to prove the drug’s efficiency.
The group of seniors who had received a rapamycin-based experimental drug had a 20 percent more improved immune response to a flu vaccine. Dr. Nir Barzilai, anti-aging expert at the Institute for Aging Research in New York City, said that the study was a “watershed” juncture for anti-aging research.
Rapamycin is an mTOR inhibitor, previously tested and proven successful in counteracting aging effects in mice and other mammals. Dr. Barzilai said that the new research was one of the first studies to prove that rapamycin delays the aging process in humans, too.
Dr Barzilai added that the new rapamycin-based drug would not only target some aging related effects (such as diseases), but it would also improve everything about aging. Some researchers have even called rapamycin the new aspirin since it acts as an antibiotic, immunosuppressant and antifungal.
Dr. Joan Mannick, lead author of the study and researcher at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, said that mTOR genetic pathway was beneficial in young people, but detrimental in elderly people. Mrs. Mannick also said that rapamycin acts as an mTOR inhibitor and “seems to extend lifespan and delay the onset of aging-related illnesses” in older mice.
In the new study, researchers planed to learn whether the new experimental drug would improve seniors’ declining immune systems and help them fight infections.
During the study, more than 200 seniors received either the new anti-aging drug or a placebo over a few weeks. Afterwards they were given a flu shot. Flu is very dangerous for elderly people. Nine out of ten flu-related deaths in the U.S. involve seniors.
Study participants that took the experimental version of rapamycin had 20 percent more antibodies to fight the flu vaccine. Also, these people had lowered levels of white blood cells linked to age related immune decline.
Researchers now hope that the new drug would help them develop immune-boosting drugs for aging people. But more study and clinical tests are required.
Dr. Barzilai said that aging was the major risk of death in people getting old, rather than heart disease, cancer or neuro-degenerative disease. These conditions are just by-products of aging. So, if science doesn’t find new drugs to delay aging, people would continue “exchanging one disease for another.” For instance, somebody taking cholesterol-lowering drugs to prevent heart-related problems would most certainly develop cancer or Alzheimer’s disease as they would grow older, Mr. Barzilai explained.
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