Growing old can be difficult, but new research reveals that there may be a way to hold off the process of aging.
The secret may lie in two new drugs that appear to boost the immune system in the elderly.
A Two-Punch Anti-Aging Treatment
According to NPR, scientists say two experimental drugs show great promise in safely improving elderly immune systems. The drugs — both initially developed for cancer — inhibit the aging-related TORC1 pathway, which many believe is the key in designing anti-aging treatments.
For the study, the team conducted a randomized clinical trial consisting of 264 individuals aged 65 or older. The participants were divided into two separate groups: one received varying dosages of one or both of the anti-aging drugs, while the other group received placebos. All took their treatments daily for six weeks.
The research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, reveals that within a year, those who took the combination treatment had about 40 percent less infections such as colds and bronchitis than those who got placebos.
The combination treatment also improved the immune system's response to the flu vaccine by increasing the flu antibodies produced by over 20 percent.
Both infection rate and flu vaccine response are significant in prolonging the lives of older individuals.
"Respiratory tract infections are the fourth leading cause of hospitalizations in people 65 and older and a major cause of death," study researcher Joan Mannick, chief medical officer of resTORbio, Inc., explains the importance of staving off the flu. "So if we can reproduce these findings ... that's a big deal."
A side effect of the treatment is mild diarrhea.
Mannick says the team has already begun testing the drugs on elderly people who are sicker in order to see the effectivity and safety of the treatment.
The Future Of These Drugs
While optimistic about the data, those who are involved in the study also say that further studies are necessary in moving forward with the drugs. Some also say that the recent research only included a limited pool of participants as well as methods that could give misleading results.
A lot of people in the medical community find the research encouraging, though, saying it could open the doors to more possibilities in anti-aging.
"This is an extremely important and exciting study," Matt Kaeberlein tells The Guardian, adding that the compounds appear to achieve boosting the immune systems. "I think this study raises the real possibility that most middle-aged adults could benefit from short-term treatments with mTOR inhibitors."
Kaeberlein is the director of the Healthy Aging and Longevity Research Institute at the University of Washington. He was not involved in the study.
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