A drug now used to treat some cancers and prevent organ rejection after transplants has been found to reverse heart disease and potentially extend longevity.
The research, involving mice suffering from age-related heart disease, found the drug rapamycin led to a significant improvement in heart function after just three months, and extended the animals’ lifespan by as much as 14 percent.
Scientists with the Buck Institute for Age Research said the results suggest rapamycin may be a life-extending treatment in older people with heart problems and researchers at the Mayo clinic are now recruiting seniors with cardiac disease for a clinical trial involving the drug.
Lead researcher Simon Melov said the mice in the study, published online in the journal Aging Cell, were examined with ultrasound echocardiography before and after the three-month treatment period to determine the drug slowed or reversed age-related heart problems.
"When we measured the efficiency of how the heart pumps blood, the treated mice showed a remarkable improvement from where they started," he said. "In contrast, the untreated mice saw a general decline in pumping efficiency at the end of the same three month period.
"This study provides the first evidence that age-related heart dysfunction can be improved even in late life via appropriate drug treatment."
Rapamycin is an immunosuppressant drug used to help prevent organ rejection after transplantation and in the treatment of some cancers.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming nearly 600,000 lives per year.
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