A new pill that prevents ageing and keeps people healthier for longer may be a step closer, scientists say.
Activating a protein called sirtuin 1 extends lifespan, delays the onset of age-related metabolic diseases, and improves general health in mice, a new study has found.
The findings point to a potentially promising strategy for improving health and longevity.
Sirtuin 1, or SIRT1, is known to play an important role in maintaining metabolic balance in multiple tissues, and studies in various organisms have shown that activating the protein can lead to many health benefits.
Also, drugs that increase SIRT1 activity have been found to slow the onset of ageing and delay age-associated diseases in several animal models.
Researchers led by Dr Rafael de Cabo of the National Institute on Ageing at the National Institutes of Health tested the effects of a small molecule that activates SIRT1, called SIRT1720, on the health and lifespan of mice.
The animals were fed a standard diet supplemented with 100 mg/kg SRT1720 beginning at 6 months of age for the remainder of their lives.
Researchers found that SRT1720 significantly extended the average lifespan of mice by 8.8 per cent. Supplementation also reduced body weight and fat percentage, and it improved muscle function and motor coordination throughout the animals' lives.
In additional studies focused on the effects of SRT1720 on various metabolic variables, researchers found that SRT1720 supplementation led to decreases in total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels, which might help protect against heart disease, and improvements in insulin sensitivity, which could help prevent diabetes, researchers said.
Supplementation also had anti-inflammatory effects in various tissues, an important finding because low-grade chronic inflammation is thought to contribute to ageing and age-related diseases, they said.
"Here, we show for the first time that a synthetic SIRT1 activator extends lifespan and improves healthspan of mice fed a standard diet," said de Cabo.
"It illustrates that we can develop molecules that ameliorate the burden of metabolic and chronic diseases associated with ageing," said de Cab.
The study appears in the journal Cell Reports.