A scientific study published this past Wednesday reveals the fountain of youth may now come in pill form. The antibiotic rapamycin is typically used in organ transplant recipients to decrease the occurrence of organ rejection. However, it recently showed dramatic increases in lifespan when administered to laboratory animals.
Rapamycin was discovered in the soils of Easter Island in 1965 according to this article from the ScienceNOW Daily News. It works to fight off the rejection of organs and most recently to decrease the rate of tumor growth. Now, however, the drug may have a new potential use.
In the lab, rapamycin was shown to increase the lifespan of female mice by 14% and the lifespan of males by 9%. Interestingly, the drug was administered when the mice were already past their prime. They were about 600 days old or the equivalent of 60 years in a human.
Not only is the increased lifespan an accomplishment for the drug, but as David Harrison, one of the researchers is quoted as saying, “No other intervention that I know of has been effective starting so late in life.”
In a separate but related study, scientists found similarly shocking results when placing laboratory monkeys on a restricted calorie diet. This look at how calories effect longevity has been under investigation for quite some time, starting in the 1930s when scientists realized reducing calories increased the lifespan of mice.
Starting at around 10 years of age one group of monkeys had their daily caloric consumption reduced by 30% while a control group continued to eat a normal diet. In 20 years, only 20% of the calorie restricted monkeys had died while the entire population of the control group had. Scientists believe the reduced calorie diet seems to slow down the degeneration of cells in the brain.
While both studies admit this is just a small step in finding such practical applications for these anti-aging approaches in humans, they are excited at the potential that is there.
People have searched out the “cure” for aging and death since way before Ponce De Leon combed Florida in 1513. Perhaps it is the unconscious fear of death that many have or just the desire to stick around a little longer that pushes humanity to explore the possibility of immortality or anything resembling it.
While rapamycin shows great promise in mice, researcher Dr. Richard A. Miller points out in the New York Times that “as of right now, ‘I don’t think there’s any evidence for people that there’s any drug that can slow aging down.’”
The potential now exists, however, that within the next few decades people could be popping a pill to live longer. In a society that is overmedicated it is my contention that we simply take better care of ourselves now through diet and exercise. The quality of our years is far more rewarding than the quantity. When it’s time to go, no pill will interrupt the hand of God and instead of fearing that day we should focus on the quality of our time spent here on earth.