News that is good for aging mice with bad hearts may now show promise for humans in their 70’s+ as well.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Americans, claiming approximately 600,000 lives and costing $109 billion each year.
According to a new study at the Buck Institute on Aging in Novato, CA, the mice exhibited vast improvement after being given rapamycin, a drug discovered on Easter Island more than 40 years ago. Rapamycin, which is recognized for extending lifespan in rodents by as much as 9%-14%, has already been approved by the FDA for treatment for kidney transplants and certain cancers (including Karposi’s sarcoma and lymphomas), as well as an anti-fungal agent in humans.
Researchers at the institute study showed that the old mice’s hearts were more efficient at pumping blood just after three months of treatment with rapamycin, at that the animals tended to spend a lot more time on their running wheels as a result. Their next project is to study mice on a year-long rapamycin treatment, with the hope of observing improved function in other tissues and bones as well.
It should be noted, however that since rapamycin can suppress the immune system at high doses, people taking rapamycin for transplant or cancer therapy are more susceptible to dangerous infections. At the same time other studies have found that low doses of the drug enhanced the ability of people’s immune systems to “utilize a vaccine against tuberculosis.”
Readers can view the full Buck Institute study report in the online journal Aging Cell.