A drug What is currently used to reduce the organism's rejection of transplanted organs could have a beneficial impact on delaying the normal process of human aging, says a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
This research was carried out by scientists from the National Human Genome Research Institute, the University of Maryland , Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
The finding, scientists say, could be a potential treatment for children suffering from a rare genetic disease called Hutchinson-GIlford syndrome , or progeria, which causes patients to age eight times faster than normal.
Progeria is an extremely sick disease weird Y lethal which affects approximately one in 8 million live births. Patients rarely survive until they are 13 years old.
This disease is caused by a mutation new, not inherited, which causes the production of a protein called progerin that can not be processed normally and accumulates in the nucleus of the cells . This accumulation in cells that are dividing affects the nucleus inversely, causing havoc in the cellular function .
Scientists have been studying this disease with interest for some time because they believe that important clues to the normal process of human aging could be found in this study, since children with Progeria often present the same symptoms seen in the older adults , such as joint stiffness, hip dislocation and cardiovascular diseases .
Scientists know that progerin protein It also occurs in normal cells and this production increases in large levels, as the old age approaches.
The new research involved taking cells from children with Progeria that were treated in the laboratory with a drug called sirolimus (also know as rapamycin ); produced from a substance discovered on Easter Island, Australia, is a powerful immunosuppressant and it is used to avoid the risk of organ rejection in patients who received transplants.
Previous studies with mice had also shown that the rapamycin manages to prolong the life of animals.
Now the researchers compared the effect produced by the drug in treated cells and untreated cells. They discovered that the drug helped the cells to get rid of the progerin accumulation and to reverse the defects of the cell nucleus that cause the reduction of longevity .
The doctor Francis Collins , lead author of the study and director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, comments that: "When the cells of children with the disease were exposed to drug in the laboratory, they managed to eliminate the abnormal progerin accumulation and survive longer. And not only that, the nucleus of cells with Progeria went from being quite ugly and abnormal to extremely beautiful, like a very smiling ovoid. "
The researchers are planning to conduct clinical trials to test the effects of rapamycin in children with progeria .
The finding, says the doctor Francis Collins , it could also have implications in the understanding of the normal human aging process.
"Several recent studies report that the progerin protein It occurs in low amounts in normal individuals but accumulates with age. The rapamycin has shown that it can prolong life prospects in healthy mice. Therefore, it is possible that the same mechanism that accelerates the elimination of progerin toxicity contributes to a beneficial effect of rapamycin in the longevity ", adds Collins .
The study, published in the magazine Nature in 2009, showed that mice treated with rapamycin they managed to live 38% more than animals that did not receive the drug .