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Depression drug link to lifespan

26th November 2007

Researchers in the United States have found that they can lengthen the lives of worms with an antidepressant drug by up to 30%, with possible implications for humans.

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The study at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, Washington state, found that an antidepressant called mianserin extended the lifespan of nematode worms by a third.

The worms, which are ideal for lifespan research because they only live for a few weeks, were exposed to 88,000 different chemicals in turn. Most chemicals had zero impact on the lifespan of the worms.

Mianserin was associated with a longer lifespan, possibly because it mimics the effects of food scarcity on the central nervous system, said researchers, who published their findings in the journal Nature.

The results also pointed to the possibility that human beings might already have some genes which could be used in therapies to increase lifespan.

Calorie restriction, for reasons that are not well understood, has been established as a factor in prolonging life, although it is not widely welcomed as a practical method of achieving this goal.

Research team member Linda Buck said it was unclear exactly how the drug achieved this effect, but that it was possible that it was disturbing the balance of two brain chemicals which are involved in restricting reproduction in an environment where there is not enough food to support them.

Buck said that finding a chemical that increased lifespan in animals might point to genes in humans that could be targeted to do the same, while the chemical approach could point to drugs suitable for testing in mammals.

Ageing experts say the effects of calorie restriction on lifespan extend right across the animal kingdom, from worms and fruit flies to mammals.

Researchers are currently investigating the effects of calorie restriction on the lifespan of primates.

 

 

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