Anti-aging drug rapamycin looks safe in tests

Since 2009 researchers have been trying to figure out if the drug rapamycin is safe as an anti-aging treatment. Studies showed that it extended the lives of mice, suggesting it could do the same for humans,. But whether rapamycin would be safe to consume over extended periods of time has been a tricky question.

In a new study using marmocet monkeys, scientists found reason for hope: Few side-effects after continuous, long-term treatment with an encapsulated form of the drug.

It’s the first time researchers have looked at metabolic effects of rapamycin in healthy primates. Beyond the minimal side-effects, they found the monkeys tolerated the drug pretty well.

“The results are encouraging,” said Dr. Suzette Tardif, Associate Director of SNPRC and co-investigator on the study. “Marmosets also offer a unique non-human primate model that will allow us to further evaluate not just the safety but the effectiveness of treatment with rapamycin.”

“This initial study with marmosets as a model for human aging has allowed us to evaluate the efficacy of a new intervention treatment that looked promising in other animal model species for both healthspan and lifespan extension,” added Corinna Ross, lead author of the study and Assistant Professor Biology, Texas A&M University San Antonio.

Spurred by the findings, the National Institute on Aging has awarded an additional $2.7 million to try to determine the effects of rapamycin on lifespan and markers of healthy aging on a group of middle-aged marmocet monkeys.

“These studies will provide an important step towards translational approaches to delay age-related disease and improve healthy aging in humans by means of pharmaceutical inhibition of mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin),” said Adam Salmon, principal investigator of the new study.

Rapamycin was originally found in Easter Island bacteria, and has been shown to suppress the immune system and is given to organ transplant recipients to help stop the body’s rejection of the new organs.

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