A proven approach to slow the aging process is dietary restriction, but new research in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University helps explain the action of a drug that appears to mimic that process - rapamycin.
Rapamycin, an antibiotic and immunosuppressant approved for use about 15 years ago, has drawn extensive interest for its apparent ability - at least in laboratory animal tests - to emulate the ability of dietary restriction in helping animals to live both longer and healthier.
However, this medication has some drawbacks, including an increase in insulin resistance that could set the stage for diabetes. The new findings, published in the Journals of Gerontology: Biological Sciences, help to explain why that happens, and what could be done to address it.
They suggest that a combination of rapamycin and another drug to offset that increase in insulin resistance might provide the benefits of this medication without the unwanted side effect.
"This could be an important advance if it helps us find a way to gain the apparent benefits of rapamycin without increasing insulin resistance," said Viviana Perez, an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the OSU College of Science.
"It could provide a way not only to increase lifespan but to address some age-related diseases and improve general health," Perez said. "We might find a way for people not only to live longer, but to live better and with a higher quality of life."
Age-related diseases include many of the degenerative diseases that affect billions of people around the world and are among the leading causes of death: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and cancer.