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October 30, 2006

How to Live Longer

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 10/30/2006 04:48:00 PM
Want to live forever? A new study says that reducing calorie intake can increase life expectancy - in fish, in yeast, in worms, and in rats. Scientists have focused on a substance that can reduce calorie intake called resveratrol which is found in red wine.

Much of the new focus is on a substance in red wine called resveratrol. The interest in it started three years ago when a group led by Harvard Medical School biologist David Sinclair reported that it boosted yeast cells' life span by 70% via a mechanism resembling CR. He later co-authored a study showing that it also boosts life span in fruit flies and roundworms. But his tendency to make bold leaps based on tentative data has also sparked intense controversy. One big question: Does he really understand the workings of CR well enough to mimic them in a drug?

Dr. Sinclair has raised a lot of venture capital to pursue the dream of enternal life.

A company that Dr. Sinclair co-founded in 2004, Sirtris Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., has begun testing a resveratrol-based drug in diabetic patients. It has raised $82 million from venture capitalists, a hefty sum for an early-stage biotech. (Sirtris's chief executive, Christoph Westphal, is married to a reporter for this newspaper.)

Apparently, the substance resveratrol works very well. It reduces aging, but it also pushes back all the diseases and illnesses associated with aging.

The companies hope to develop therapies for diseases, not antiaging pills. One reason is that the Food and Drug Administration doesn't recognize aging as a problem warranting treatment. But if a drug could retard aging, it might delay the onset and possibly the progression of age-related diseases. "When you slow aging," says University of Illinois epidemiologist S. Jay Olshansky, "you push a host of diseases to later ages at one fell swoop -- cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, as well as everything else that's negative about growing older."

Some researchers believe antiaging drugs could also improve health in late life -- rather than prolong misery -- letting people stay in relatively good shape until a swift demise. Their case rests partly on the svelte, energetic look of old animals on CR. "Often it's hard to identify the cause of death" in post-mortem studies on such animals, says Richard Weindruch, a University of Wisconsin CR researcher. "The only apparent problem is that they died."

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