Elixir of life discovered on Easter Island
A drug has been discovered which scientists believe can reverse the effects of premature ageing and could extend human life by more than a decade.
7:41AM BST 30 Jun 2011
Rapamycin, which has been nicknamed the “forever young” drug, was created from a chemical found in the soil on Easter Island, one of the most remote places on Earth and 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile.
It was used in experiments on children suffering from Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS), a rare genetic condition in which ageing is hyper-accelerated and sufferers die of “old age” at around 12 years.
HGPS causes a dangerous process whereby a protein called progerin builds up in every cell of the body, causing them to age prematurely.
Rapamycin cleaned the cells of progerin, which swept away the defects and left healthy cells.
Researchers in the United States, who include Francis Collins, a pioneering genetic scientist and collaborators from Harvard Medical School, are expected to start looking at whether the drug could be used more widely, after similarities between HGPS and the normal ageing process were uncovered.
Rapamycin is already used to suppress the immune system in organ transplants.
Dimitri Krainc, one of the study’s co-authors, said: “Even a small activation of this ‘debris removal’ system would extend the health and life-span of our cells and organs.”
The work was reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.