Life-longing effects in worms can turn into treatments that delay aging in humans one day.
A team of researchers led by Dr Jan Gruber, the Head Investigator from Yale-NUS College, discovered a combination of drugs that not only increased the healthy lifespan of the microscopic worm Caenorhabditis elegans, but also delayed the rate of aging.
The study, published in Developmental Cell on 8 October 2018, lays crucial groundwork for further research into designing drug combinations that produce the same effect in mammals.
Dr. Gruber’s team wanted to learn how to extend the healthy lifespan by combining drugs to affect life expectancy. For example, the drug rapamycin is currently administered following organ transplants to prevent the body’s immune system from rejecting the transplanted organs, but previous experiments by other research groups showed that it extends the lifespan of many organisms, including the C. elegans worms.
Dr. Gruber’s team applied C. elegans to combinations of two or three compounds that target different ways of aging. Results showed that two drug pairs in particular extended the mean lifespan of the worms more than each of the drugs individually, and in combination with a third compound almost doubled mean lifespans.
A microscope image of the Caenorhabditis elegans. Image provided by Dr. Gruber.
Drug treatments had no adverse effect on worm health. Researchers have also discovered that from all ages, treated worms are healthier and provide a greater percentage of their already extended life cycle.
This is an important point for future human aging interventions, as increased duration of health is not only an extension of life expectancy but also important medical and economic benefits. Not only will we have a longer life, but we will also be able to get rid of age-related diseases like arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, hast said Gruber. “These diseases now require very expensive treatments, so the economic benefits of being healthier for longer will be tremendous.”
According to Dr Gruber, this study is a proof of the principles and is a promising strategy that aims to slow down aging and healthy life of pharmacological intervention targeting many aging pathways in adult animals.
The next steps for this research will focus on three large areas. First, it will be to expand this approach in order to design more effective interventions than those developed in this study. The second area will involve determining the molecular and biological mechanisms of how drugs interact to delay aging and how to increase computer use for the development of computer models to simulate these interactions, and allow researchers to test more combinations than thousands of computer combinations.