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The "Diet" Antibiotic

Researchers have found exactly how a drug works to mimic the action of eating well and, as a result, possibly extending lifespan.

The drug, an immunosuppressant and antibiotic called Rapamycin, was approved for use about 15 years ago. In addition to those uses, rapamycin seems to have the ability in lab animals to mimic the effect of dietary restriction, which helps animals live longer and healthier lives.

But rapamycin also has the drawback of increasing insulin resistance, which could lead to diabetes.

The latest findings, from researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University, explain why that happens and how it could be counteracted. The investigators said that combining rapamycin with another drug could block the increase in insulin resistance. The drug, Metformin, is one of the most widely prescribed for diabetes patients.

“This could be an important advance if it helps us find a way to gain the apparent benefits of rapamycin without increasing insulin resistance,” said Viviana Perez, an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the OSU College of Science. “It could provide a way not only to increase lifespan but to address some age-related diseases and improve general health,” Perez said. “We might find a way for people not only to live longer, but to live better and with a higher quality of life.”

Billions of people around the world are affected by age-related diseases including diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Age-related diseases include many of the degenerative diseases that affect billions of people around the world and are among the leading causes of death: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Perez said the further work needed to be done to see if the combination worked on humans as well as it has on animal subject. But, she said, “the potential of this work is exciting.”

The findings were published in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences.

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