Rapamycin Mimicking Protocol
The Island of Rapa Nui, also called Easter Island, is known for two things: giant elongated face sculptures of mysterious origin, and a bacteria named Streptomyces hygroscopicus, which is the source of a now hotly sought-after drug, rapamycin.
Rapamycin, also called Sirolimus or Everolimus, has garnered considerable interest in the longevity community due to its potential to enhance lifespan in various organisms. The central mechanism by which it operates involves the inhibition of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway—a pivotal regulator of cell growth, proliferation, and metabolism that responds to environmental and nutritional cues. This pathway is highly conserved from yeast all the way to humans, meaning that the metabolic pathways are virtually identical.
The mTOR pathway, composed of two distinct complexes (mTORC1 and mTORC2), is integral to several cellular functions. The first, mTORC1, modulates protein synthesis and autophagy—a physiological process through which cells recycle their damaged or unnecessary components, thereby promoting cellular health and function. Overactivation of this pathway, particularly mTORC1, has been associated with a range of age-related diseases.
Rapamycin’s action on the mTOR pathway helps preserve cellular homeostasis by maintaining the delicate balance between anabolism (energy-consuming processes) and catabolism (energy-producing processes). By specifically inhibiting mTORC1, rapamycin boosts autophagy, facilitating the regular clearance of damaged proteins and organelles, and thus contributing to cellular rejuvenation and improved function.
Additionally, the suppression of mTORC1 activity has a ripple effect, cascading into the regulation of other key processes. For instance, it can modulate immune responses by influencing T-cell differentiation and function. This can have a twofold advantage: bolstering immunity (which typically declines with age), while simultaneously reducing chronic inflammation—a significant factor contributing to age-related pathologies.
Moreover, rapamycin's action on mTORC1 aids in managing metabolic imbalances. It can promote insulin sensitivity, potentially mitigating insulin resistance—a common precursor to uncontrolled blood glucose, and an independent risk factor for cardiovascular challenges seen in aging.
Research across various model organisms, including yeast, worms, flies, and mice, has consistently demonstrated rapamycin's longevity-enhancing properties. Notably, even late-life administration in mice resulted in significant lifespan extension, signifying its potential as an effective anti-aging intervention, and it’s being tested in companion dogs to improve their health and lifespan in the Dog Aging Project, headed by Dr. Matt Kaeberlein. There is a smaller project working on the same goals for cats at Trivium Vet.
In humans, the effects are complex and necessitate more investigation, but there is sufficient evidence that many people are taking it with the support of their doctors for the purpose of lifespan extension. Most doctors, however, are not willing to take the leap to prescribe rapamycin until it has been fully approved for this use. It has already been approved in certain contexts, such as organ transplantation and certain mutational conditions owing to its immunosuppressive and anti-proliferative capabilities. Early trials, like the Participatory Evaluation of Aging with Rapamycin for Longevity (PEARL) trial, are investigating the potential effects of rapamycin to rewind the biological clock in otherwise healthy adult humans.
However, as with any potent therapeutic agent, there are potential side effects. Acute administration of rapamycin has been associated with a range of side effects, including mouth sores, diarrhea, and increased risk of infections owing to its immunosuppressive action. More significant adverse effects such as impaired wound healing, metabolic disturbances like increased blood lipids and elevated blood glucose, and even kidney damage have been observed in individuals undergoing long-term rapamycin therapy. While these severe side effects are typically only seen in individuals who are already experiencing health challenges, the mild side effects can still be concerning, and dosing adjustments may be helpful.
Since access to rapamycin remains limited, and side effects may make its use prohibitive for some people, you may want to choose supplements that mimic the positive effects of this drug without having to resort to questionable methods or search for a specialized doctor.
Below, you will find several natural compounds that mimic various aspects of rapamycin’s beneficial mechanisms. While you don’t have to take all of these, their individual effects are explained in detail so you can choose the ones that are best for your particular situation.
Berberine is an alkaloid that is extracted from a variety of plants and has a rich history of use in traditional medicine practices. Recently, it has been identified as a powerful activator of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that plays a central role in regulating cellular energy homeostasis and promoting autophagy.
The function of AMPK has been compared to that of rapamycin because of its role in promoting autophagy. Autophagy is a crucial cellular process where cells self-degrade and recycle components to maintain cellular health and function. Berberine’s activation of AMPK stimulates this autophagy process, leading to the clearance of damaged proteins and organelles, which is a key anti-aging mechanism that mimics the action of rapamycin.
Berberine also offers additional health benefits that enhance its longevity-boosting potential. It can regulate healthy glucose and lipid metabolism, reducing insulin resistance and supporting cardiovascular health. Recent research suggests that berberine may also possess anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to protect against oxidative stress.
Resveratrol is a polyphenolic compound best known for its presence in red wine. It's been studied for its ability to stimulate the SIRT1 protein, which has an intricate role in cellular health and longevity. In clinical settings, resveratrol has been added to a rapamycin protocol to enhance the suppression of growths from DNA mutations with promising results, so it is likely to have similar effects when combined with other compounds that mimic rapamycin.
SIRT1, a member of the sirtuin family of enzymes, is known to extend lifespan in lower organisms. Resveratrol's stimulation of SIRT1 can inhibit the mTOR pathway and promote autophagy, mirroring the effects of rapamycin. The inhibition of mTOR by SIRT1 leads to a reduction in protein synthesis and an increase in autophagy, thereby enhancing cellular health and potentially extending lifespan.
Besides its influence on SIRT1 and the mTOR pathway, resveratrol also boasts antioxidant properties, can improve mitochondrial function, and has been shown to exert cardio-protective effects, further underscoring its potential in promoting health and longevity.
Fisetin is a flavonoid naturally found in numerous fruits and vegetables. It's gained attention in the scientific community for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and potential to promote autophagy.
Fisetin's ability to stimulate autophagy mirrors the action of rapamycin. Autophagy allows cells to degrade and recycle damaged or unnecessary cellular components, thereby maintaining cellular integrity and function. This mechanism is critical for cellular health and longevity.
It’s particularly useful for older adults who may have an accumulation of senescent, or “zombie” cells. These types of cells can no longer divide, and only perform some of their biological functions. They also secrete cytokines, which tell the nearby cells that there is danger, and this may prompt these neighboring cells to become senescent as well. Fisetin is uniquely able to clear these senescent cells to make way for new, healthier cells, prolonging overall heath and function.
Moreover, fisetin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities can reduce the chronic inflammation and oxidative damage that often accompany aging, contributing to its potential as a longevity-enhancing compound. It also appears to have the ability to inhibit mTOR signaling, an effect similar to rapamycin, which further amplifies its promise in longevity research.
Curcumin is the active component in turmeric, a spice with an extensive history of medicinal use. Known for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin may also play a role in inhibiting mTOR signaling.
Curcumin's potential to dampen mTOR signaling mirrors the action of rapamycin, implying that curcumin might induce similar effects on cellular metabolism and longevity. Through this mechanism, curcumin can promote autophagy, supporting cellular health and possibly contributing to lifespan extension.
Beyond mTOR inhibition, curcumin is also recognized for its potent antioxidant capabilities, ability to modulate numerous signaling pathways, and its potential to protect against a variety of chronic diseases. These features, alongside its potential to mimic the effects of rapamycin, make curcumin an intriguing compound in the pursuit of health and longevity.
Quercetin is a flavonoid found in many fruits, vegetables, leaves, and grains. It has been the focus of many studies due to its broad range of potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and properties.
Like rapamycin, quercetin has been shown to inhibit the mTOR pathway, thereby promoting autophagy - a critical cellular process for maintaining cellular homeostasis and promoting longevity. Furthermore, quercetin's antioxidant properties help counteract the oxidative stress that often accelerates aging, while its anti-inflammatory capabilities help to mitigate chronic inflammation, which is a significant contributor to age-related diseases.
Quercetin has also been found to modulate sirtuin activity, specifically SIRT1, which is recognized for its role in cellular health and longevity. These multi-faceted actions place quercetin as a promising natural compound in the pursuit of health and lifespan extension.
Pterostilbene is a naturally occurring stilbenoid, similar in structure to resveratrol, and found in blueberries and grapes. It's been gaining attention for its potential anti-aging effects.
Like rapamycin, pterostilbene may inhibit the mTOR pathway, promoting autophagy and contributing to cellular health and longevity. Furthermore, Pterostilbene has been shown to activate the SIRT1 enzyme, a longevity-related protein that can also inhibit mTOR, contributing further to its potential as a lifespan-extending compound.
In addition to these effects, pterostilbene is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can mitigate the oxidative damage and chronic inflammation often associated with aging.
Sulforaphane is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. It has been widely researched for its potential health benefits, including its role in detoxification, antioxidant activity, and anti-inflammatory effects.
Research has suggested that Sulforaphane can inhibit the mTOR pathway, similar to rapamycin, which promotes autophagy and maintains cellular health - key components in promoting longevity. Sulforaphane also stimulates the Nrf2 pathway, a crucial regulator of the cellular response to oxidative stress, further bolstering its antioxidant potential.
Additionally, Sulforaphane's anti-inflammatory properties help to combat chronic inflammation, a contributing factor to many age-related diseases. These combined actions position Sulforaphane as a promising natural compound in the quest for health and lifespan extension.
One of the core strategies of a rapamycin-mimicking protocol involves implementing key dietary modifications. Each of these alterations aim to mimic the beneficial effects of rapamycin on cellular metabolism and longevity.
Several studies suggest that reducing caloric intake by about 10-20% can stimulate autophagy—a vital cellular recycling process associated with enhanced healthspan and lifespan. This reduction doesn't equate to malnutrition or deprivation; rather, it's about reducing excess caloric consumption that typically typifies Western diets.
This strategy works on the principle of cellular energy sensing, similar to the effects of rapamycin, wherein cells shift from a state of growth and proliferation to a state of maintenance and repair, thus enhancing their functional capacity and durability. Moreover, caloric restriction has been linked with improved metabolic parameters, including insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles, which can lower the risk of metabolic diseases and support overall health, however results on caloric restriction are mixed, so this modality isn’t for everyone.
Like caloric restriction, intermittent fasting—periodic abstinence from food—can stimulate autophagy and potentially extend lifespan. Popular methods include the 16/8 method, which involves 16 hours of fasting followed by an 8-hour eating window. By briefly stressing cells, intermittent fasting mimics the energy-sensing metabolic shift induced by rapamycin, leading to a cascade of cellular benefits including enhanced autophagy, improved metabolic flexibility, and bolstered resistance to cellular stressors. Moreover, intermittent fasting can promote weight management and metabolic health, contributing further to its longevity-enhancing effects.
Low Sugar Diet
Consuming a diet low in simple sugars is crucial in maintaining stable insulin levels and preventing overactivation of the mTOR pathway—the central target of rapamycin. High sugar intake can stimulate insulin production, thereby activating mTOR and promoting cellular proliferation at the cost of cellular maintenance and repair. By reducing simple sugars, we can restrain mTOR activity, thereby allowing cells to shift their energy towards maintenance, autophagy, and repair processes. A low sugar diet, even a keto or ketogenic diet, can also help maintain healthy metabolism and weight, and slow the functional decline associated with aging.
A plant-rich or plant-based diet ensures you're getting a wide range of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that can support autophagy and overall health. Many plant-derived compounds have been shown to mimic the effects of rapamycin, contributing to autophagy, inhibiting mTOR, and offering antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds can provide these beneficial compounds and support an optimal balance of macronutrients for longevity.
Incorporating healthy fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids from sources such as fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, into your diet is another dietary modification in the rapamycin-mimicking protocol. Omega-3 fats are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and ability to maintain a healthy inflammatory response—an essential aspect of cellular health and longevity. They also contribute to the fluidity and function of cellular membranes and support heart and brain health. By suppressing chronic inflammation, a key factor in aging and age-related diseases, the intake of omega-3 fats mirrors one of the essential actions of rapamycin.
While diet is a foundational component of a rapamycin-mimicking protocol, lifestyle modifications are equally significant in influencing our cellular health and longevity.
There’s no way to get around it, we have to keep moving our bodies if we want to stay healthy. Engaging in regular physical activity is paramount in this protocol. Exercise, particularly resistance training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), can stimulate autophagy—the cell's self-cleaning process that removes damaged components to maintain optimal function. This effect is similar to rapamycin's autophagy-inducing properties, but achieved through natural, physiological means. Additionally, exercise can boost mitochondrial health, improve metabolic flexibility, and strengthen immune function. It enhances cardiovascular health, maintains healthy body composition, and promotes neuroplasticity—essential factors for a robust and healthy lifespan.
Sleep is a non-negotiable aspect of this protocol. Prioritizing 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night is essential for cellular repair and regeneration. During sleep, our body shifts into a reparative mode, with processes such as autophagy and the clearance of metabolic waste products in the brain (via the glymphatic system) becoming more active. This mirrors some of the restorative, cell-protective effects of rapamycin. Adequate sleep also aids in maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm, critical for balanced metabolic function and overall health. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to an imbalance in the mTOR pathway and is linked to many age-related concerns.
Regular stress management practices such as mindfulness, yoga, or meditation play a crucial role in this protocol. Chronic stress can lead to overactivation of the mTOR pathway and suppress autophagy—actions contrary to the desirable effects of rapamycin. By managing stress levels, we can help maintain balanced mTOR activity and foster a physiological environment conducive to cellular repair, resilience, and longevity. Beyond its physiological benefits, stress management can enhance cognitive function, mood, and overall quality of life.
Avoid Smoking and Limit Alcohol
Lifestyle modifications that slow aging also include avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol consumption. Both habits can accelerate aging by inducing cellular damage, promoting chronic inflammation, and impairing autophagy. By avoiding or limiting these behaviors, we can reduce the risk of premature aging and numerous health issues, aligning more closely with the cell-protective and longevity-enhancing effects of rapamycin.
Regular monitoring of your health through lab work and other testing is an integral part of this protocol. These tests can help you track your progress and make necessary adjustments to your lifestyle modifications and dietary interventions. This personalized approach echoes the precision of rapamycin in targeting specific cellular pathways for health and longevity. Regular check-ups allow for early detection and management of potential health issues and ensure that your efforts align with your health goals. If your doctor is resistant to ordering longevity-specific biomarker testing, more services are becoming available that allow you to order testing on your own.
In our search for life extending compounds, rapamycin is only one of a plethora of options we have available to us. Consider these rapamycin mimetics, like berberine, resveratrol, fisetin, curcumin, quercetin, pterostilbene, and sulforaphane. We must always build on a foundation of good health, which emphasizes the role of a balanced lifestyle, regular exercise, effective stress management, adequate sleep, and the elimination of unhealthy habits.
The linchpin of any comprehensive longevity protocol remains a nutrient-rich diet, minimizing the intake of processed foods and sugars that can accelerate aging, while nourishing the body with the essential nutrients needed for optimal function.
After all, the goal is not merely to live longer but to thrive in those extended years. As we unravel the secrets of longevity, may we remember to celebrate the journey and not merely the destination.
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