Research from the University of Auckland identifies a drug that can extend life

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In addition to living longer, the University of Auckland study found that mice given the cancer drug alpelisib were also healthier in old age, with better strength and coordination. Archive photo
Photo: 123rf

Scientists have found a drug that allows people to live longer.

In a study from the University of Auckland, mice were given alpelisib – currently used to treat cancer – which increased their lifespan by an average of 10 percent, compared to mice on the same diet that were not given the drug.

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The results, published in international journal nature aging, found that the mice given alpelisib were also healthier in old age, with better strength and coordination.

But researchers were cautious about testing it on humans because there were also negative effects, such as weaker bones and higher blood sugar levels.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Troy Merry said the next step would be to understand how the drug worked – and it could be a decade before it is tested in humans.

“We are not suggesting that anyone should start taking this drug long term to extend life as there are some side effects.

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“We know it’s safe in cancer treatments, and we should [sic] read a little more about how it would work in healthy people.

“There are very, very few drugs that have ever been shown to extend the lifespan of both male and female mice, it’s one of two or three.

“So it’s really exciting research, but it’s just the beginning.”

Professor Peter Shepherd said alpelisib targets an enzyme called PI 3-kinase.

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He said scientists had been developing drugs to target the enzyme for more than 20 years because there was evidence it could help treat cancer.

“So it’s great to see these drugs potentially being used in other areas and revealing new mechanisms that contribute to age-related diseases,” Shepherd said.

“It also demonstrates the value of long-term investment in research areas such as this one.”

The work was funded by New Zealand’s Health Research Council.

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