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Resveratrol Found in Red Wine Could Help Better Design Anti-Aging Drugs

Mar 08, 2013 04:21 PM EST

Mediterranean's are famous for enjoying a nice glass of red wine with their meals which even has some heart healthy benefits. A new study says a natural ingredient found in red wine, resveratrol, can help fight off diseases associated with age.

The findings, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, could lay the foundation for a variety of drugs that act like concentrated amounts of resveratrol. Scientists are studying this natural compound to help them design better anti-aging drugs.

Pharmaceutical giants have invested millions of dollars in the quest to improve on the compound that helps ramp up the body's cellular defenses against disease and aging.

Harvard geneticist David Sinclair and his colleagues have been working for more than a decade to uncover a chemical link between resveratrol and a family of proteins found throughout the body called sirtuins, which can trigger proteins that rejuvenate cells. Sirtuins are believed to combat diseases related to getting older, like type 2 diabetes, cancer or Alzheimer's. Specifically, resveratrol increases the activity of SIRT1, which acts to make our mitochondria - the cell part that turns food into energy in our cells - more efficient, the study says.

The new results will help achieve a "more rational design" of resveratrol-related drugs, Sinclair said.

"There is no rational alternative explanation other than resveratrol directly activates SIRT1 in cells," Sinclair said in a statement. "Now that we know the exact location on SIRT1 where and how resveratrol works, we can engineer even better molecules that more precisely and effectively trigger the effects of resveratrol," which will then allow them to design better anti-aging drugs.

The researchers screened for SIRT1 mutant proteins and found one that had a change in its amino acid (the building blocks of a protein) sequence that made it not respond to resveratrol in a test tube experiment.

"We discovered a signature for activation that is in fact found in the cell and doesn't require these other synthetic groups," co-author Basil Hubbard said in a press release. "This was a critical result, which allowed us to bridge the gap between our biochemical and physiological findings." 

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