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Anti-aging drugs give hope to Alzheimer’s patients

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By Deborah Cooper • • September 11, 2000

Anti-aging drugs may be available sooner than scientists previously thought. New research shows that certain drugs are effective in prolonging life span and could soon be in clinical trials for treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The type of drugs used are called synthetic catalytic scavenger compounds (SCS) and “to date, they have been successfully used in models of neurodegenerative, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, “ said Dr. Bernard Malfroy chief executive of Eukarion Inc., one of the research groups involved in the study.

Using these drugs in a collaborative research effort, scientists have for the first time successfully increased normal life span in the nematode worm C. elegans. The drug’s mechanism works by augmenting the worms’ natural antioxidant systems. The typically short life-span of this worm is helpful to researchers trying to determine the effectiveness of substances aimed at promoting longevity.

As reported in the September 1, 2000 issue of Science, it appears that oxidative stress is a major determinant of life span and that it can be counteracted by medication. The test group of worms lived approximately 50% longer than the control group of worms who were not given any treatment.

Antioxdants are well-known as potential keys to preventing cell damage from free radicals, molecules that move freely around the body dsetroying and altering proteins and genes.

“These results are the first real indication that we have had that aging is a condition that can be treated through appropriate drug therapy,” said Dr. Melov, a founding faculty member of the Buck Institute of Aging, which initiated the studies. “‘Further studies on higher organisms in the near future will allow us to answer whether or not we have to reconsider aging as inevitability.”

A slightly altered version of the drug will be tested in humans next year to see if it can limit the damage caused by stroke, according to Malfroy. Eukarion is initiating experiments to see whether it can lengthen the life span of mice. “Our priority now is to move these compounds toward clinical trials.”

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