I, for one, welcome our new negligibly-senescent mouse overlords.

Caloric Restriction Comes in a Pill

Scientists have provided the strongest evidence yet that the anti-aging benefits of calorically restricted diets can be duplicated -- minus the near-starvation -- by a pill.

In a study published today in Cell Metabolism, mice given resveratrol -- the first of an eagerly-anticipated class of longevity drugs -- enjoyed dramatically improved health, even when they started taking the drug late in life.

Resveratrol didn't extend the lives of normal mice, but it did protect them from the ravages of time. The rodents had stronger hearts, clearer eyes, more limber muscles and firmer bones. Closer analysis revealed the same cell-level changes produced by caloric restriction, an extreme form of dieting that consistently lengthens the lives of lab animals but is impractical, if not dangerous, for people.

"For the first time, we can mimic caloric restriction in an otherwise healthy animal," said study co-author David Sinclair, a Harvard University biologist and co-founder of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals. "That's been the goal of the field for decades. We didn't know it was possible to let an animal eat whatever it wants, but still get the benefits. We now have evidence."

Regardless of mouse weight and diet, resveratrol worked wonders. At two years of age, or the mouse equivalent of senescence, the mice were more coordinated than their non-dosed counterparts. Their bones were thicker and stronger, their eyes free of cataracts, their hearts beating strong. At the cellular level, tissues displayed gene-level changes almost identical to those produced by caloric restriction.

Sirtris Pharmaceuticals has already started clinical trials of resveratrol and a more-refined sirtuin activator. In June they were purchased for $720 million by Glaxo Smith Kline, signaling the seriousness with which academics and the pharmaceutical industry views the field.

"You've got to take aging research seriously if a company is willing to put down three-quarters of a billion dollars on it," said Sinclair.


8 Responses:

  1. prog says:

    I for one welcome my still-kicking-ass-at-90 future self, so I've been taking Resveratrol supplements since the start of the year, knowing full well that it hasn't been tested to any conclusions on humans yet. My friends roll their eyes about snake oil, and I can only shrug, because it's not like I can do much besides wave mouse-test research papers at them right now. But it still and all does seem like the best available-knowledge starting place, while the research continues to trickle in.

    • uke says:

      I'm not up on the latest, but I thought that commercial resveratrol supplements had been tested and found to contain no actual resveratrol. (Because it wasn't successfully stabilized, I believe.) Have they fixed that yet?

      • prog says:

        As far as I can tell, yes. The relevant fora include folks with access to chemistry labs who have been running their own analyses on the commercial stuff. The question of the moment, now, is how bioavailable the various dosages and delivery formats are. (Does your liver absorb most of it? Are powders more potent than pills?) Lots of guesswork ensues.

        The current marketplace is kind of bizarre and sketchy in some ways, with companies making claims without any sort of independent oversight (other than the hobbyist-level stuff above) and even getting into flamewars with each other on mailing lists. My hope is that the science generated by Sinclair, Aubrey de Grey, and others continues to grow in promise, prominence, and funding, and will eventually lead to a more stable market (and less hacky guesswork, fun as that is for some).

  2. mandy_moon says:

    We do a lot of calorie restriction studies and the mice really are healthier and some do live longer. The problem is that the mice are nasty. You know how a person who's hungry in the middle of the afternoon gets cranky? It's like all the crankiness has amplified and accumulated over months.

    Also, these results are more amplified in the monkeys on food restriction- "cranky" doesn't begin to describe it.

    Though I haven't seen any studies with resveratrol. It would be nice to get the health results without the "I'm going to tear your face off because I'm hungry" effect.

    • curgoth says:

      Hungry, hostile, and long-lived. If they can only purify that a little more, we get our inevitable zombie apocalypse!

  3. prof_null says:

    Oh great, so we are going to have the richest of the rich all sharp-eyed limber oldies dictating the terms while the rest of the world suffer "normal" aging.
    Dark future, folks. Get some shares in GSK now if you have the money!

    • prog says:

      We're not talking about shadowy thriller-movie organ-harvesting plots, we're talking about ultimately inexpensive therapies being researched in broad daylight and published in journals. This is really exciting stuff with the potential of helping all people everywhere, in the way that any sort of disease-fighting research does.

      Stuff like the "richest of the rich" fear is hard to shake, because aging is such an old (hurr) facet of the human condition that it seems like you'd have to be either magical or a mega-wealthy bastard in order to actually do anything against it. The research going on here is proposing one hell of a paradigm shift away from that.

  4. Isn't resveratrol found in red wine? That's how I'm taking it in large doses. Roll on my elderly, drunk, but limber self.