'Effective' anti-ageing drug to undergo clinical trials
A drug that reverses ageing, promotes DNA repair and could help astronauts travel to Mars by reducing the impact of cosmic radiation, may be on the market in three years, scientists claim.
Researchers working with two biotech companies hope to begin testing the treatment on clinical trial patients in six months.
In early experiments the drug, nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), had a dramatic rejuvenating effect on ageing mice.
Lead scientist Professor David Sinclair, from the University of South Wales (USW) in Australia and Harvard Medical School in the US, said: "The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice after just one week of treatment.
"This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that's perhaps only three to five years away from being on the market, if the trials go well."
NMN boosts levels of NAD+, the oxidised form of the chemical nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, which is naturally present in every cell of the body and helps regulate protein interactions that control DNA repair.
Accumulated DNA damage is believed to be a major driver of natural ageing and a primary cause of cancer.
Recent work highlighting the chemical's potential anti-ageing properties has led to an influx of NAD+ supplements available online. However, there is no hard evidence that the low-dose supplements can keep ageing at bay.
The new research, reported in the journal Science, showed that NAD+ boosts the activity of a well-known DNA repair enzyme called PARP1.
The work has attracted the interest of the American space agency Nasa, which is looking for ways of shielding astronauts from the effects of radiation on the long voyage to Mars.
High levels of cosmic radiation mean the chances of unprotected astronauts developing cancer could approach 100%. A competition run by Nasa in search for possible solutions was won by Prof Sinclair's team last year.
The first clinical trial is expected to get under way at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, US, this year.