Research Focuses on Anti-Aging Treatments
Researchers are working to develop medications that have the same effects as calorie-restricted diets, which have extended life and increased vitality in studies of laboratory animals, the New York Times reports. A recent study led by David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School found that a chemical called resveratrol might have the same effects as calorie-restricted diets in mice and might protect them from the negative effects of high-fat diets.
Sirtris, a company founded by Sinclair, seeks to develop a medication that contains resveratrol to extend the human lifespan and protect against the negative effects of aging. According to Sinclair, activation of a protein enzyme, or "sirtuin," produced by the first gene in a group called the SIRT family could have the same effects as calorie-restricted diets.
MIT researcher Leonard Guarente -- founder of Elixir Pharmaceuticals, a rival of Sirtris -- agreed but added that all seven genes in the SIRT family could play a role. Elixir researchers also remain uncertain "if the sirtuins should be activated or inhibited for best effect," the Times reports.
Elixir CEO William Heiden said, "We think the sirtuins are extraordinarily interesting but just don't yet have the proof that these enzymes will be useful in metabolic disease."
Meanwhile, Sirtris has begun human clinical trials of a modified form of resveratrol, called SRT501, as a potential diabetes medication.
According to the Times, Sirtris and Elixir face criticism from some scientists who "suspect that drugs like resveratrol may act not through the SIRT genes but in some other way, which would mean the results reported last week give no support to the idea that the SIRT genes mediate the response to caloric restriction" (Wade, New York Times, 11/7).