Miracle drug could help prolong lifespan

Experiments have shown that wonder drug, rapamycin, could help regenerate cells helping you live a decade longer

The secret to eternal youth could soon be revealed, as scientists claim they have found a way to make ageing cells healthy again.

Rapamycin – or the ‘forever young’ drug as it has been dubbed – has been used by researchers in an extraordinary experiment to prolong the life of cells in children who have aged prematurely.

The U.S. researchers, who include Francis Collins , one of the world’s most distinguished scientists, hope the discovery will help in treating Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, by regenerating their damaged cells.

HGPS is a rare genetic condition where babies age eight times faster than the average person, usually dying by the age of 12. The body ages rapidly and becomes extremely frail due to the mutant protein called progerin that amasses in every cell throughout the body. This then causes defects and quickly ages the cells.

Teenager Hayley Okines, a sufferer of the disease, who has defied doctors by reaching her 13th birthday this year, is well known from helping to spread awareness of her condition.

The illness was also hinted at in the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with many believing the author F Scott Fitzgerald based his story around HGPS sufferers.

However the drug, which was created from bacterium unearthed in the soil on Easter Island, 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile, may provide a breakthrough for the rest of the population as well.

Although in much smaller amounts, cells in an average human body also accumulate the mutant protein progerin. ‘It is known that during ageing, our cells accumulate by-products of normal cell function,’ said Dimitri Krainc, co-author of the study.

However, it is thought that if rapamycin is successful in regenerating the cells in a Progeria patient, as was shown when Dr Collins, director of the U.S. government’s health research labs, studied the effects of the drug on skin cells of three young HGPS sufferers, then it could also help prolong the lives of non-sufferers too.

‘Our body’s ability to remove this debris declines with ageing and it is thought that even a small activation of this ‘debris removal’ system would extend the health and life-span of our cells and organs,’ he explained.

Rapamycin works in that it simply flushes out the toxic protein and reverses the defects, therefore making the damaged cells healthy again.

Early research shows the wonder drug could help to extend the human lifespan by more than 10 years.

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