According to new studies, a drug used to combat hypertension might just help us in a different way as well, namely in extending our lifespan and keeping us healthy later on in life.
The drug is called rilmenidine and has been tested on worms in lab conditions, managing to slow down their aging process.
The reason why this particular drug was chosen for this study is that previous research found that it imitates the effects of caloric restriction on a cellular level and reducing the available energy while maintaining nutrition in the body has been proven to help a variety of animal models live longer.
However, at this point in time, scientists are yet to determine for certain whether or not this also translates to human biology.
Finding ways to get these benefits without extreme, potentially harmful calorie cutting, may just lead to new ways to improve our health in the latter years of our lives.
As for the study, it included a series of tests led by an international team and featured both young and old Caenorhabditis elegans worms.
The worms were treated using the blood pressure drug and managed to live longer.
And just as the research team had hoped, they also showed higher measures in a number of pre-determined health markers in the same manner as restricting calories.
João Pedro Magalhães, a molecular biogerontologist from the University of Birmingham, says that “For the first time, we’ve been able to show in animals that rilmenidine can increase lifespan. We’re now keen to explore if rilmenidine may have other clinical applications.”
It is important to note that these specific worms were chosen for the study due to the fact that many of their genes have similar counterparts to those in our genome.
Even so, the relation to humans is still rather distant.
Other tests that followed also determined that gene activity linked to caloric restriction can be seen in the liver and kidney tissue of mice that were treated with the same drug.
Another finding was that nish-1, a biological signaling receptor, played a huge role in making rilmenidine effective.
As a result, this chemical structure will likely be targeted in future studies attempting to slow down human aging and improve lifespan.
The authors of this study write in their paper that “We found that the lifespan-extending effects of rilmenidine were abolished when nish-1 was deleted. Critically, rescuing the nish-1 receptor reinstated the increase in lifespan upon treatment with rilmenidine.”
Unfortunately, low-calorie diets are rather difficult to follow in a healthy way as they often come with nasty side effects such as brittle bones, hair thinning and dizziness.
This is why the researchers hope this drug will manage to offer humans the same benefits while being much easier on the body than low-calorie diets.
In addition to that, rilmenidine is already widely prescribed, can be taken orally and has rare and mild side effects, making it a promising anti-aging solution.