A clinical trial sponsored by Novartis could potentially unlock the secret of the molecular “fountain of youth” and holds the promise of an effective anti-aging drug. The clinical trial conducted in New Zealand and Australia is a randomized, observer-blind, placebo-controlled trial that enrolled over 200 healthy volunteers age 65 or over. The objective of the study was to investigate whether RAD001, an analog of rapamycin could improve immune functions in the elderly as assessed by response to influenza vaccination. The results, which were recently published in the prestigious Science Translational Medicine , show that indeed RAD001 enhanced the immune response to the influenza vaccine by about 20% in this healthy senior population.. The data from this trial demonstrate that RAD0001 can ameliorate immunosenescence, the decline of immune system functions as people ages, by increasing the antibody titers to influenza and reducing the percentage of certain population of T lymphocytes, whose number increases with age.
Rapamycin was first approved by the FDA in 1999 as an immunosuppressant to prevent organ transplant rejection and is also used as a slow releasing coating in conjunction with coronary stents to prevent restenosis following balloon angioplasty. Currently, many clinical trials are being conducted to investigate its therapeutic effects in several types of cancers and various other diseases. In regard to anti-aging studies, resveratrol, a compound found in grapes and red wine, is also being studies by GlaxoSmithKline for its anti-aging function in certain populations. However, rapamycin, having been shown consistently to counteract aging and age-related diseases in several mouse populations and other animals, represents the most promising candidate disrupting aging-related disease progression.
With an approval history by the FDA and an excellent safety profile, research communities are hopeful that a fine-tuned dosing regimen will be developed for rapamycin to aid humans to age gracefully with a good quality of life.