Can Rapamycin and mTOR Extend Your Lifespan?

Experts are now looking at aging and what we can do to slow it down. They are now seeing evidence of pharmacological products being able to intervene with this process we all face. It is now being looked at as ‘when’ we will find this answer to aging and not ‘if’ we can find it. One possibility that is being explored is the intervention in our nutrient response pathway by mTOR. Mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) is showing evidence of inhibiting the pathway to extend lifespan.

Can Rapamycin and mTOR Extend Your Lifespan?

Pharmacological products or drugs that target specific pathways have the potential of being able to slow down the aging process in humans by slowing down the course of diseases such as cancer. The mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) was discovered for its antifungal activity in soil in the Polynesian island of Rapa Nui and had been studied as an immunosuppressant before it’s function was understood. It was approved for use in post-transplantation therapy and is now being approved for other purposes such as the prevention for types of cancer.

Rapamycin Shows Positive Results

There have been successful trials of rapamycin increasing the lifespan of mice. The suppression of tumors, which would have been the main reason for the mice to die, has allowed them an extended lifespan. When we age, our body’s repair mechanisms start to fail. When this occurs we become susceptible to a variety of diseases such as; diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disorders, and cancer. Studies have been done to find ways to prevent these diseases that reduce our lives. Targeting those age-related diseases that significantly reduce our lifespan and keeping our immune system in check to fight them have led scientists to rapamycin. Rapamycin is the first known drug to work in mice as those treated with it lived much longer than those not treated.

Function of mTOR

mTOR consolidates the input from ambitious pathways, including amino acids, growth factors, and insulin. It is able to sense cellular nutrient, energy levels, and oxygen. The pathway is much like a central regulator for the metabolism of mammals and plays an important role in the function of your muscles, liver, brown and white adipose tissue, and brain. It is dysregulated in diseases found in humans such as; depression, obesity, diabetes and certain cancers. Rapamycin restrains mTOR by assisting its cellular receptor. The rapamycin compound will bind directly to the domain of mTOR inhibiting its activity.

Not the Fountain of Youth

Rapamycin has been found to be able to extend our lifespan but is showing limited effects on the actual aging process of our body. There have been some positive effects on impairments such as reduced red blood cells and memory loss but not on the actual aging process itself. One of it’s greatest benefits is it can suppress tumors. Cancer is a leading cause of death and with rapamycin being able to suppress tumor formation leads it to be able to extend one’s lifespan but not actually affecting other aging processes. Aging processes are defined as the probability of death with age, but exactly what is aging?

Aging Process

Ageing is when our number of years on earth increase and our bodies health begins to fail. When an elderly person dies, it is said they have died from age-related diseases or often simply stated as ‘natural causes’. It is not only humans who die in this manner, other mammals, worms and even flies die from pathologies, and the most common are cancer, diabetes, macular degeneration, and many other diseases. Cellular aging is also known as the mTOR-dependent process. Aging is often associated with hyperfunctions such as; increased platelet aggregation, high blood pressure, increased resistance to hormones, fibrosis and hyperplasia and a few other conditions. These conditions damage our organs which cause us to lose certain functions we could do earlier in life.

Cancer and Rapamycin

An age-related disease is cancer. If there is an intervention that can delay cancer, it can slow aging. Studies have shown that rapamycin is a potent cancer preventive agent and can be moderately used as a treatment for cancer. It prevents cancer by slowing down the aging, not by actually killing existing cancer cells, so the prevention has to start before cancer begins for the most powerful benefit. The cancer prone mice used in the experiments of rapamycin are not typical examples of all mammals. Cancer is not the most common cause of death in most animals. mTOR is the most common cause of mortality in age-related diseases and rapamycin can prevent this in mammals while at the same time slows down aging.

Need for Further Analyses

Scientists still need to conduct further analyses before conclusively stating rapamycin will extend a person’s lifespan. Anti-aging effects cannot be measured on lifespans alone. The overall picture of findings must be used to interpret the data collected to date. The research is tedious, but also very promising. There have been some very favorable results showing it can slow down the progression or the beginning of age-related diseases so this does, in some respects, extend certain life spans. It just has not conclusively been labeled as a product for anyone to take who wants to live longer. It has not been labeled as the fountain of youth for everyone.