Scientists Discover Drug Cocktail That Doubles the Lifespan of Animals

Have scientists discovered the fountain of youth?. Praveen/Flickr

If the mythical fountain of youth were real, it might be brimming with this cocktail. Scientists in Singapore have concocted a brew of drugs that are known to have various advantageous effects on extending an animal's lifespan, and appear to have stumbled upon a magical combination capable of doubling the lifespan of some species.

It hasn't been tested on humans yet, but so far the effects have been duplicated on creatures as varied as nematode worms and fruit flies, and researchers are optimistic that it will work on people too, according to a press release about the study.

“Many countries in the world, including Singapore, are facing problems related to aging populations,” said Dr. Jan Gruber from Yale-NUS College, who led the research team. “If we can find a way to extend healthy lifespan and delay aging in people, we can counteract the detrimental effects of an aging population, providing countries not only medical and economic benefits, but also a better quality of life for their people."

And also, who wouldn't want to live for twice as long with stable health?

Not just quantity of years, but quality

The drug cocktail not only lengthened the life of animal subjects, but it also extended the quality of life. In other words, it boosted the animals' period of time in life enjoying optimal health. So it's not just about longevity.

"We would benefit not only from having longer lives, but also spend more of those years free from age-related diseases like arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, or Alzheimer's disease," said Gruber.

Some of the drugs used in the cocktail include rapamycin, rifampicin, psora–4, metformin, and allantoin. These are all drugs known to have an impact on lifespan in isolation, but the real breakthrough here is the discovery that combining them can boost lifespan even more. By far, this is the largest lifespan extension ever found for any drug.

The treatment was mostly studied in the worm Caenorhabditis elegans, a microscopic critter with a typically short lifespan. That might sound like a far cry from a human subject, but it's a necessary first step before trials can begin on more complex animals. Obviously, human trials are the end game here. First though, more animal research will be needed as researchers work to perfect the formula. Computer models that test different drug mixes are on the docket as well, which can help to eliminate any potentially harmful drug interactions.

The study was published in the journal Developmental Cell.