Saturday, November 22, 2008

Aging Prevention

New Longevity Drugs Poised to Tackle Diseases of Aging

Cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, heart disease: All have stubbornly resisted billions of dollars of research conducted by the world's finest minds. But they all may finally be defied by a single new class of drugs, a virtual cure for the diseases of aging.

In labs across the country, researchers are developing several new drugs that target the cellular engines called mitochondria. The first, resveratrol, is already in clinical trials for diabetes. It could be on the market in four years and used off-label as an all-purpose longevity enhancer. Other drugs promise to be more potent and refined. They might even be cheap.

"It's going to revolutionize western medicine," said Doug Wallace, a pioneer of mitochondrial medicine at the University of California at Irvine. "All the things that are common for an aging society, and nobody worried about when they died of infectious disease," he said, could be treated.

If the idea of a cure-all sounds fantastic, that's because it is. History is littered with failed wonder drugs, elixirs of youth and miracle cures. But these new drugs have shown tremendous promise in mice. And though success in animals is far from a guarantee for humans, the research has gone from tantalizing curiosity to a possible foreshadowing of human health care in the 21st century.

As fewer people in the West die of infectious diseases, these new mitochondrial drugs could prevent a wide range of age-related illnesses, though they likely won't extend the lifespans of healthy individuals.

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