Recently, a new class of anti-aging drugs has been identified by a team of researchers from The Scripps Research Institute and the Mayo Clinic. In mice, these drugs reduce frailty, improve heart function and extend a healthy lifespan. These drugs, called “senolytics” by researchers, work by causing senescent cells, which secrete harmful substances that damage other cells, to die. Since these drugs are already approved for human use, researchers say that clinical trials should be fairly easy to arrange in a relatively short time. The cancer drug dasatinib, sold under the brand name Sprycel, and quercetin, a nutritional supplement with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties, are classified as senolytics. And now that the researchers know what to look for, even stronger drugs could be on the way to being discovered.
The study states that with short treatments of senolytic agents, it could become possible to delay, prevent, alleviate or even reverse multiple chronic diseases and disabilities as a group, as opposed to one at a time. Old mice given the two drugs improved their heart function in just five days. The ejection fraction, a measurement of how much blood is pumped, rose by around 10 percent. Mice irradiated to mimic cancer treatment experienced improved capacity for exercise for seven months on a single dose. Control mice, by comparison, had endurance 15 percent below normal, while treated mice had normal endurance.
A special kind of mouse, that ages six times the rate of normal mice, greatly extended their healthy lifespan, also known as “healthspan”. The mouse type mimics a human disease known as progeria, and dies in six months, compared to the 3 to 3 ½-year lifespan for normal mice. Treated mice of this type had their healthspan increased by 10 percent, and more than 15 percent greater bone density. Most likely, these secreted factors from senescent cells inhibit regeneration, so that just getting rid of these cells is sufficient to have a positive impact.
Within a year or two, the first treatments could end up reaching clinical. However, since federal regulators don’t consider aging to be a disease, this would be based on treating specific conditions, as opposed to general anti-aging. For example, cancer patients who become weak after chemotherapy could be tested to see if these drugs restore their strength. Nonetheless, further research on the drugs is necessary, and there need to be more replication studies over a long time to understand their long-term effects, as well as see how they affect humans.