24 Jan 2023

University of Auckland study identifies drug that could increase lifespan

6:24 am on 24 January 2023
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In addition to living longer, the University of Auckland study found mice given the cancer drug alpelisib were also healthier in old age, with better strength and coordination. File photo Photo: 123rf

Scientists have found a drug that could make people live longer.

In a University of Auckland study, mice were given alpelisib - currently used to treat cancer - which increased their lifespan by an average of 10 percent, compared to mice with the same diet that were not given the drug.

The results, published in international journal Nature Ageing, found the mice given alpelisib were also healthier in old age, with better strength and coordination.

But researchers were cautious about testing it on humans, because there were also negative effects like weaker bones and higher blood sugar levels.

Principal investigator Associate Professor Troy Merry said the next step would be to understand how the drug worked - and it could be a decade before it was tested on humans.

"We are not suggesting that anyone should go out and take this drug long-term to extend lifespan, as there are some side effects.

"We know it's safe in cancer treatments, and we gotta [sic] find out a little bit more about how it would work in healthy people.

"There are very, very few drugs that have ever been shown to extend the lifespan both in male and female mice, it's one of two or three.

"So it's really exciting research, but it's just the start."

Professor Peter Shepherd said alpelisib targets an enzyme called PI 3-kinase.

He said scientists had been developing drugs to target the enzyme for more than 20 years, because there was evidence that could help treat cancers.

"Therefore, it's great to see that these drugs might have uses in other areas and reveal novel mechanisms contributing to age-related diseases," Shepherd said.

"It also shows the value of long-term investment in research areas such as this."

The work was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

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