Reprinted with the kind permission of Life Extension.
July 13 2016. On July 11, 2016, Nature Medicine published the finding of researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne of a compound metabolized from ellagitannins occurring in pomegranates that extended the life span of the roundworm C. elegans and helped maintain muscle function.
Ellagitannins act as precursors to another compound known as urolithin A. The team found that urolithin A induces mitophagy, which enables the cells to recycle components of mitochondria that become dysfunctional with aging. Defective mitochondria buildup has been suggested as playing a role in weakened muscle tissue and other age-related conditions. “It’s the only known molecule that can relaunch the mitochondrial clean-up process, otherwise known as mitophagy,” announced coauthor Patrick Aebischer.
When tested in C elegans, urolithin A increased lifespan by 45% compared with untreated animals, while preventing age-related dysfunctional mitochondria accumulation and prolonging mobility. In mouse models of age-related muscle function decline, urolithin A improved exercise capacity at two years of age.
Similar findings were observed in rats. “Species that are evolutionarily quite distant, such as C elegans and the rat, react to the same substance in the same way,” stated coauthor Johan Auwerx. “That’s a good indication that we’re touching here on an essential mechanism in living organisms.”
The researchers plan to test a method of delivering urolithin A to humans in clinical trials. “Precursors to urolithin A are found not only in pomegranates, but also in smaller amounts in many nuts and berries,” noted Chris Rinsch, who is another coauthor of the study. “Yet for it to be produced in our intestines, the bacteria must be able to break down what we’re eating. When, via digestion, a substance is produced that is of benefit to us, natural selection favors both the bacteria involved and their host. Our objective is to follow strict clinical validations, so that everyone can benefit from the result of these millions of years of evolution.