Rapamycin may not be the fountain of youth, but it’s the closest thing we have so far. Learn more about how this molecule may help us live longer.
Rapamycin May Be The Secret To Longevity
Rapamycin is a type of drug with the ability to suppress the immune system.
It comes from Streptomyces hygroscopicus, a bacterium found in the soil of Easter Island. Fungi is the microbes’ archenemy, and as a result, it produces rapamycin to slow down the fungi’s growth.
The compound’s ability to suppress the immune system makes it the drug of choice to prevent organ transplant rejection. It also has potential in anti-cancer and neuroprotective therapies.
Additionally, a 2009 study uncovered rapamycin’s potential as an anti-aging drug.
How Does Rapamycin Slow Down Aging?
Rapamycin Targets mTOR Pathways
mTor is a master of cell regulation that exists as protein complexes. Nutrient availability activates mTOR complexes, which, in turn, inhibit or suppress crucial cell functions.
In other words, mTOR responds to the available nutrients and makes the necessary adjustments to cell function for survival.
Some of the functions mTOR regulate include:
- Creates new proteins
- Builds new cell structures that generate energy and remove waste.
- Maintains cellular infrastructure
- Cell generation and survival
- Apoptosis (cell death)
- Cell metabolism
What is autophagy? Autophagy cleans out unnecessary or damaged cellular components to make room for new ones.
Rapamycin inhibits mTOR activity associated with aging, such as cell metabolism. At the same time, it stimulates autophagy and waste removal.
During times of high energy and nutrients, mTOR stimulates cell growth and inhibits autophagy and waste removal. Consequently, cells age.
On the other hand, periods of limited energy, or caloric restriction, activate survival pathways. As a result, the cellular activity enters a state that prolongs lifespan.
Animal studies found a caloric restriction increases longevity by 10% for macaques and 50% for mice.
Because rapamycin directly inhibits mTOR, it mimics times when nutrients are low. Thus, it may extend lifespan.
During stress conditions, autophagy can lead to cell survival through lysosomes activity. Autophagy relies on lysosomes to degrade harmful, dysfunctional cell components and misfolded proteins. It then converts these parts to amino acids and sugar to reuse.
TRPML1, the main calcium channel, is critical in regulating lysosomal function. Without this, cells become cluttered as we age.
Rapamycin activates this channel, regardless of mTOR activity, and enhances autophagy dependent on TMRPL1. It may contribute notably to the anti-aging effect of rapamycin.
Suppression Plus Preservation
Cells can’t replicate indefinitely. They can only divide roughly 60 times before programmed death occurs.
For this reason, suppressing cell growth may increase the lifespan on a cellular level. That is to say, by slowing down the speed at which cells replicate, we extend how long a cell survives.
Slowing biological age also involves reducing the rate of functional decline.
Rapamycin does precisely this. It slows down cell proliferation. At the same time, it maintains the cell’s potential to do so.
For example, by suppressing reproduction, rapamycin preserves the oocytes, thereby delaying menopause.
RELATED: What Is AMPK and What Does It Do?
If Drug Therapies Slow Down Aging, Why Aren’t We Immortal Yet?
We don’t fully understand the underlying mechanism of quality life extension. Additionally, these mechanisms are often dissimilar, and, in many ways, researchers don’t know how they interact.
We do know many cells become senescent and impact the cells around them as we age. By causing those cells to undergo apoptosis, it may save other cells.
One example is the hydra, an immortal multicellular organism. The hydra’s stem cells continuously differentiate and fluff off. Think of this process as amputating problem cells and replacing them with functioning cells. For this reason, cells will never become senescent, and aging won’t occur.
Unfortunately, human diseases and aging usually involve multi-organ systems where cells terminally differentiate. When cells start dying in large numbers, replacing them isn’t possible.
However, rescuing cells from senescence is one of the biggest challenges facing researchers. We’re still a long way from doing so and pushing longevity beyond 125 years.
Is Rapamycin Safe?
All drugs and therapies carry some level of risk. Rapamycin is, in many ways, no more dangerous than aspirin. And as with most medication, if used correctly, it’s safe.
Some possible side effects of the drug include:
- Pseudo-diabetes (SPD)
- Low platelet count
Studies haven’t confirmed severe side effects yet, and side effects are reversible.
Studies without a placebo group often exaggerate the side effects. Furthermore, in some cases, the disease causes side effects, and patients wrongly blame the treatment.
For example, in cancer or transplant patients, they might notice fatigue and think treatment causes it. But, in reality, it’s the disease causing it.
Lastly, noninfectious interstitial pneumonitis is another, albeit rare side effect. It may increase the severity of bacterial infections.
On the other hand, too much of a good thing can be harmful. In this case, high doses can shut down the immune system, which may lead to cancer.
Moreover, there are no known cases of rapamycin overdose. In a failed suicide attempt, a teenager ingested 103 pills, and a slightly elevated cholesterol level was the only detectable effect.
In terms of lethality, researchers can’t determine the dose because it’s more than 2500mg/km.
For anti-aging purposes, however, doses are generally too low to cause any noticeable issues. And, treatment can stop, if any unpleasant effect occurs without long term repercussions.
In short, the benefits of rapamycin outweigh the risks. Besides, the alternative to avoidable and reversible side effects is aging. And while it may not make us immortal, it can increase longevity by a decade or more. By living longer, our generation can benefit from future advances in anti-aging therapy.
Are you considering anti-aging treatment? Contact us today, and we’ll help you optimize your health. Our offices are located throughout Central Florida, and we also offer telehealth for peptide therapy.