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March 05, 2006

More on Longevity Research

The cover story of this month's issue of Scientific American, "Unlocking the Secrets of Longevity Genes", is co-authored by David Sinclair and Lenny Guarente. Both have started pharmaceuticals (Sirtis and Elixir, respectively) and both are professors, Sinclair at Harvard and Guarente at MIT. I mentioned Sinclair in an earlier blog entry.

If there's one thing that's clear from the recent news in longevity research, it's that it has gone mainstream. Researchers are making breakthroughs, founding firms, attracting capital, and writing for major magazines.

Sinclair and Guarente seem optimistic but not wild-eyed:

Both our labs are running carefully controlled mouse experiments that should soon tell us whether the SIRT1 gene controls health and life span in a mammal. We will not know definitively how Sirtuin genes affect human longevity for decades. Those who are hoping to pop a pill and live to 130 may have therefore been born a bit too early. Nevertheless, those of us already alive could live to see medications that modulate the activity of Sirtuin enzymes employed to treat specific conditions such as Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes and heart disease. In fact, several such drugs have begun clinical trials for treatment of diabetes, herpes and neurodegenerative diseases.

And in the longer term, we expect that unlocking the secrets of longevity genes will allow society to go beyond treating illnesses associated with aging and prevent them from arising in the first place. It may seem hard to imagine what life will be like when people are able to feel youthful and live relatively free of today's diseases well into their 90s. Some may wonder whether tinkering with human life span is even a good idea. But at the beginning of the 20th century, life expectancy at birth was around 45 years. It has risen to about 75 thanks to the advent of antibiotics and public health measures that allow people to survive or avoid infectious diseases. Society adapted to that dramatic change in average longevity, and few people would want to return to life without those advances. No doubt, future generations accustomed to living past 100 will also look back at our current approaches to improving health as primitive relics of a bygone era.

There's a less technical, broader round-up of longevity research, "The Aging Enigma", in a recent issue of Harvard magazine, in which Sinclair has a slightly differently-nuanced view:

David Sinclair... does not rule out changes to the human maximum, although he believes that “We are not going to see any super-long-lived people in our lifetimes.” Progress against age-related disease could add five to 10 years on average to human life span. “Who wouldn’t be happy,” he asks, “with an extra five years?”

February 26, 2006

Bill Sardi on Resveratrol

I've blogged recently (here and here) on the latest news about resveratrol, now known to increase lifespan in at least one vertebrate species (a type of fish, courtesy of a just-published study out of Italy). Curious to learn more, I corresponded with Bill Sardi, founder of Longevinex, makers of what is to my mind the best available resveratrol supplement on the market:

Me: Your summary noted that the study used "100% trans resveratrol stored at 4°Centigrade (39° Fahrenheit) in the dark". Is Longevinex 100 percent trans resveratrol? And does this mean that I should store it in my refrigerator?

Bill: 100% trans resveratrol costs a fortune; Longevinex provides trans resveratrol 50% extract from polygonum cuspidatum (Asian giant knotweed) and from red wine grapes (French). Store in cool place. Refrigerator may cause misting.

Me: Does the study offer any information relevant (even vaguely) to dosage information in H. sapiens?

Bill: Maybe... possibly 600 mg per day. Lower doses didn't work. But we know low-dose resveratrol in red wine results in the French having the longest living human population. The resveratrol was placed in a fish tank, possibly destroyed by light, air, etc., before consumption. The resveratrol in red wine is preserved in a dark, airtight bottle and then consumed. This may make a big difference.

Bill: So you know, the FDA is probably going to step in and block any high dose resveratrol pills. We can produce a 250 mg resveratrol pill now, but it would cost $3.00 per day.

Thanks to Bill for permission to reproduce our e-mail exchange here.

February 16, 2006

Resveratrol in Mice

In my blog entry on resveratrol yesterday, I mentioned a forthcoming study of its effectiveness on mice. It's being done at the Harvard Medical School by David Sinclair, associate professor of pathology and co-founder of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals.

In an interview on NewsHour in January 2005, Dr. Sinclair discussed his approach to the mouse study:

DAVID SINCLAIR: Right, so we're at the point where we need to test this first of all in mice and those studies are just beginning now. And then if that works, we really want to go either into humans if it's safe, or to try it in primates as well. But we're at the point where we are in mammals and we'll know within a year or two if we're right about this.

TOM BEARDEN: That soon?

DAVID SINCLAIR: Sure, I mean a mouse's lifespan is about two years. We're going to be feeding our molecules out, so-called calorie restriction, the medic molecules that we call them, we're feeding these to elderly mice that are halfway through their life and we'll know within a year or less if we're having an effect.

Presuming the study started at about the time of the interview, the control mice should be dying right about now. As for the mice on resveratrol, we'll just have to wait for the research to be published. We could know sometime this year.

February 15, 2006

More Evidence for Resveratrol

I've blogged about resveratrol before (here and here). It has already been shown to increase lifespan in yeast, fruit flies, and worms. Now we have the first evidence (via Fight Aging!) that it increases lifespan in vertebrates:

A new study shows an ingredient found in red wine, which has previously shown to prolong the life of worms and fruit flies, may extend the lifespan of vertebrate animals like fish and possibly humans.

Researchers found adding resveratrol, an organic compound found in grapes and particularly in red wine, to the daily diet of short-lived fish prolonged their lifespan and delayed the onset of age-related memory and other problems...

In this study, published in Current Biology, researchers examined the effects of resveratrol on a small type of fish that lives only three months in captivity.

The results showed that adding the red wine ingredient to the daily diet of the fish prolonged their expected life span and slowed the progression of age-related memory and muscular problems.

Researchers found fish fed the lower dose of resveratrol lived an average of 33% longer than fish fed their normal diets, while those fed the higher dose of the red wine ingredient lived more than 50% longer.

An abstract of the original article can be found here, but it doesn't mention the specific statistics quoted above (which admittedly sound conveniently fractional).

I've been taking resveratrol for about a year now. Not that I'm an expert, but Longevinex seems like the best brand out there. Interestingly, they have a good bit of detail on the study -- more than in any of the news stories I found:

Researchers continue to demonstrate, in higher life forms, that lifespan is increased with the feeding or resveratrol, widely known as a red wine molecule. The most recent report, involving killfish, the highest life form yet to be tested, reveals increases in lifespan ranging from 27-59% when research-grade resveratrol was added to fish food. Lifespan was increased in a dose-dependent manner in this species of fish that has the shortest median lifespan of any vertebrate, about 9 weeks.

Equally remarkable was the impact resveratrol had on the quality of life of killfish. After 50 passes through a shuttle-box learning test, 73% of the time young fish navigated the test compared to just 42% success rate among old fish and a remarkable 74% success rate among old fish fed resveratrol! Researchers in Italy who conducted the study said "resveratrol-fed fish showed remarkable preservation of learning and prevention of age-related brain degeneration."

The jury is still out, obviously. A study of resveratrol's effects on mice will provide the first look at its effectiveness on mammals. But so far, to the best of my knowledge, every species studied has shown significant lifespan gains with resveratrol. That's good enough for me, for now, at least.