It’s probably in our DNA to try and out-muscle nature and when it comes to ageing pundits have constantly pursued the omnipotent elixir that could reverse all those powerful forces driving us towards the ignominy of obsolescence. Rapamycin is a drug used to treat cancer that has been repurposed in mice to make them live longer. It does this by eliminating defective mitochondria or cellular batteries allowing them to be replaced by much healthier, younger prototypes, kind of like replacing a burnt-out VW with a Tesla. If it allows ageing mice to rev up the ailing engines and power forward, could it be similarly deployed to rejuvenate the human race?
There is a community of the converted out there, including physicians and other mavens who are firm believers that they’ve unearthed the Rosetta stone to our quest for immortality. Despite a paucity of trials on humans, certainly none for extended periods, short term experiments indicating that rapamycin can boost the immune system and revitalize ageing skin, gathered in forums and on the frontline of the quest to conquer ageing, championed by an American doctor in his seventies who was able to resuscitate his moribund frame with this medication, taking small amounts of rapamycin weekly they are reporting magical restoration. Resolution of periodontitis, curing dermatitis and revisiting youthful vitality are just some of the benefits described by those who are riding this immortality highway. A formidable drug employed to fight cancer, even in small amounts rapamycin is not without its drawbacks. Mouth ulcers although transient, elevating blood sugar, suppressing the production of red blood cells, exacerbating osteoarthritis, raising cholesterol and possibly weakening the immune system in the long-term, although the current short-term evidence suggests the opposite, hasn’t quelled the enthusiasm of those who have embraced this medication. The temptation to join this throng of converts is undeniably compelling.
Clinical trials on humans to assess rapamycin’s inroads on reversing cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s as well as promoting longevity are now underway. Then we can decide if it’s wise to join the believers.