A recent article in Scientific American discusses a synthetic chemical that has extended the lifespan of lab mice by mimicking the effects of a low-calorie diet.
Past research has shown that subjecting test animals to low-calorie diets can extend their normal lifespan by a considerable margin. (There have even been cases of people who have gone on ultra-low-calorie diets to test their effects on human, eating under 1,600 calories per day. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/23/style/food-for-holiday-thought-eat-less-live-to-140.html).
The compound, called SRT1720, previously had been found to extend the lifespan of mice that were given high-fat diets. In this case, however, scientists also gave SRT1720 to mice eating standard diets and found that they, too, enjoyed longer lifespans–9 percent longer.
For people with type 2 diabetes, a therapy based on compounds like SRT1720 could become a powerful way to combat their disease–not by allowing them to live longer, but by allowing them consume a normal amount of calories while their bodies act as though they are consuming far fewer.
How it works is that SRT1720 belongs to class of chemicals called calorie restriction mimetics. These chemicals activate the same cellular pathways that low-calorie diets activate, but without the need to reduce the actual number of calories consumed. As the body adjusts to a perceived state of low-calorie intake, it loses weight and becomes metabolically more efficient–both positive results for type 2s.
One of the cellular pathways affected by SRT1720 activates proteins called sirtuins. Mice bred to produce higher levels of sirtuins were immune to acquiring diabetes, due to the proteins’ ability to control inflammation.
It will take much more research before a medication based on chemicals like SRT1720 can be applied to humans. In any case, it would be used a direct treatment for diabetic or cardiovascular symptoms, not as an anti-aging therapy.
The Scientific American article can be accessed at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/compound-that-may-mimic-calorie-restriction-extends-life-span-in-mice/
The Cell Reports study it discusses can be accessed at: http://www.cell.com/cell-reports/retrieve/pii/S2211124714000655