Miracle drug could help prolong lifespan

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

Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button
Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button
(Image credit: Rex Features)

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.



Natalia Lubomirski
Natalia is a health journalist with 14 years experience in the publishing industry. She has worked for a number of well known magazines and websites including Marie Claire, Woman&Home, Top Sante, Boots and The Telegraph.  She likes to think she practices what she preaches when it comes to health and fitness. Her athletic prowess began early. A keen fencer for 13 years, she wielded an epée for Olympic Team GB during her teenage years. She likes to think she made sword-fighting cool before Game of Thrones came along! While working on her sporting performance with the team, she also participated in a lot of nutrition and psychology training, When it comes to time off, you’ll most likely find her up a mountain somewhere. It seems holidays have become a time for climbing several thousand feet, rather than chilling out. She’s now hiked eight of the major mountain ranges across four continents – including the Appalachians, the Smokies, the Sierra Nevadas (she spent her honeymoon hiking to the top of Half Dome), as well as hitting the summits of Snowdon, Pen-Y-Fan (Brecon Beacons), Table Mountain in South Africa, the Blue Mountains in Australia and the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. She’s also passionate about all things health, particularly vaccinations, and will happily jump on her soap box at any given opportunity to talk about their benefits to anyone who will listen!