Controversial supplement helped to slow aging and extend lifespan in cells from humans with a rare aging syndrome that kills sufferers before the age of 45, study says
- Werner Syndrome causes people to develop grey hair and wrinkled skin young, and to die by the age of 45
- A new Danish study has identified how Werner Syndrome causes cells to age hyperactively
- They claim a controversial anti-aging supplement stemmed the process
A controversial anti-aging supplement appeared to slow aging in cells with a rare condition that accelerates aging and kills sufferers by the age of 45.
NAD+ is a pill designed to boost our levels of a molecule called NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which is abundant in children, fuels metabolism, and seems to keep cells fresh.
In the past decade, there has been a flurry of excitement over NAD+, with scores of scientists claiming to have evidence that NAD+ slows aging in animals by fueling new cell creation, and just as many critics saying the evidence is weak.
Now, Danish scientists are joining the debate, with a study that identified possible causes of the aging condition Werner Syndrome, and evidence that NAD+ helped stem the illness, delaying death and aging.
Researchers say a controversial anti-aging supplement stemmed the effects of Werner Syndrome in cells from humans, animals, banana flies and roundworms (file image)
‘We are showing for the first time that Werner Syndrome is due to errors in the clean-up process,’ said lead author Vilhelm Bohr, a professor at the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen.
‘When we improve the clean-up by giving supplements of the drug NAD+, we can show in animal models that it increases lifespan and delays the aging processes.’
Werner Syndrome is rare. It most common in Japan, affecting between 1 in 20,000 and 1 in 40,000 people. In the United States, 1 in 200,000 have the condition.
From a young age, sufferers develop grey hair and wrinkled skin. They are more likely to develop cancer and type 2 diabetes, and are unlikely to live to 50.
Researchers still don’t know exactly what causes the condition, but a recent boom in research on aging has helped uncover new ideas about why and how cells age.
Dr Bohr’s team wanted to look at a process called mitophagy, a useful and necessary ‘clean-up’ process in the body, which identifies defective mitochondria (a cell’s ‘battery’), breaks them down, and puts their proteins to better use elsewhere.
The researchers found mitophagy was prolific, hyperactive and defective in cells from human patients, animal models, banana flies and roundworms that had Werner Syndrome.
NAD+, they say, stemmed that process by fueling the creation of new mitochondria.
‘It strongly reinforces our findings that the clean-up process seems to be important in both human cells and across different animals,’ Dr Bohr said.
‘And then it is encouraging that in living animals, we can improve lifespan and delay the aging processes which are the key symptoms of Werner Syndrome.’
The team say they have been contacted by clinicians in Japan to explore a clinical trial of NAD+ in patients with Werner Syndrome.
‘We very much hope that the studies will point in the same direction so that patients can live longer and with a higher quality of life,’ Dr Bohr said.
It is hardly the first study to look at the anti-aging potential of NAD.
The supplement was first explored in a Harvard study in 2013, when researchers said the supplement reversed aging in the mitochondria of muscles in mice.
The study sparked excitement, and a rush of scientists setting up start-ups to research, patent and sell the ‘Holy Grail’ of aging.
According to a Scientific American blog, NAD inspired one of the glitziest start-ups in the science world to date, with five Nobel laureates on the board.
Despite the rush, David Stipp, author of The Youth Pill: Scientists At The Brink Of An Anti-Aging Revolution, is not convinced.
‘[T]he paucity of human data gives me pause,’ Stipp writes.
‘Nobel laureates notwithstanding, I plan to wait until more is known before jumping up from the supper table to run out for some NR [similar to NAD]. Besides, it probably won’t be long before more data come out given the growing buzz about NAD.’
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