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Immortality in pill no longer science fiction

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-03-25 13:23

SYDNEY - Man's search for immortality is another step closer to reality with a major breakthrough in creating a drug capable of fighting the aging process -- a drug that could be available before 2018 -- after pioneering work led by an Australian researcher with the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

The study led by Professor David Sinclair, from UNSW Medicine, has revealed that a single anti-aging enzyme in the body has the potential to prevent age-related diseases and extend lifespans.

The paper released this month, shows all of the 117 drugs tested work on the single enzyme through a common mechanism.

This consequences are far-ranging and suggest that an entirely new class of anti-aging drugs are now viable.

Drugs that could ultimately prevent the great disease's of our lifetime -- from cancer, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's disease and even the burden of modern lifestyles -- type 2 diabetes.

"Ultimately, these drugs would treat one disease, but unlike drugs of today, they would prevent 20 others," Professor Sinclair said.

"In effect, they would slow aging."

Trials focusing on a series of maladies have shown promise already, and the list is a veritable who's who of the great disease's of the 21st century.

These range from cancer, cardiovascular disease and cardiac failure, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, fatty liver disease, cataracts, osteoporosis, muscle wasting, sleep disorders and through to inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.

"In the history of pharmaceuticals, there has never been a drug that tweaks an enzyme to make it run faster," said Professor Sinclair, a geneticist with the Department of Pharmacology at UNSW.

The technology was sold to pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in 2008.

Four thousand synthetic activators, which are 100 times as potent as a single glass of red wine, have been developed with the best three in human trials today.

"Our drugs can mimic the benefits of diet and exercise, but there is no impact on weight," said Professor Sinclair, who has isolated diabetes as the first disease to be targeted.

There have been limited trials in people with type 2 diabetes with measurable benefits to the subject's metabolism.

Professor Sinclair hopes that one day, the drugs could be taken orally as a preventative.

Effectively, a pill that prevents the illnesses associated with natural aging.

In animal models, overweight mice given synthetic resveratrol were able to run twice as far as slim mice and they lived 15 percent longer.

"Now we are looking at whether there are benefits for those who are already healthy. Things there are also looking promising," said Professor Sinclair, who also heads the Lowy Cancer Research Centre's Laboratory for aging Research at UNSW.

"We're finding that aging isn't the irreversible affliction that we thought it was... Some of us could live to 150, but we won 't get there without more research."

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