Posted Thursday morning, March 29, 2018.
“What a mouse! WHAT A MOUSE!”
I was only planning on making it to seventy-five, but the way things are going it’s looking like I have to last until at least I’m a hundred and twelve. So this article by Sharon Begley in STAT got my hopes up…
In the latest advance, biologists reported on Thursday that a molecule already sold by supplement makers (even as scientists scramble to understand it) restored youthfulness to blood vessels in 20-month-old mice, an age comparable to 70 years in people. The research supports the idea that boosting certain genes and molecules that fade with age could keep people functional, resilient, and even spry well into their 80s, even without living longer.
“I think it’s quite an important paper,” said Dr. Eric Verdin, of the California-based Buck Institute for Research on Aging, who was not involved in the new research. “It’s probably not the magic pill everyone is looking for, but it’s one more brick in our efforts to understand aging and healthspan,” or how long people can stay biologically young(ish) even as their birthday candles proliferate.
Sounds promising, doesn’t it? The supplement is Nicotinamide Mononucleotide, popularly known as NMN.
After two months of NMN, more blood vessels sprouted in the old mice’s muscles. The density of the smallest vessels — capillaries — became comparable to that of young mice. Blood flow increased, and the animals’ endurance, measured by how long they could run on a treadmill before becoming exhausted, was 56 percent to 80 percent greater than that of untreated old mice: 1,400 feet compared to 780 feet.
The treated mice also benefited from exercise like mice half their age. In young animals, exercise spurs the creation of new blood vessels and boosts muscle mass, but that effect weakens with age in both people and mice. NMN restored the blood-vessel- and muscle-boosting effects of a good treadmill run, basically “reversing vascular aging in the mice,” said study co-leader David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School.
But then I read on…
New blood vessels could also be a mixed blessing. They support the growth of tumors, which is why anti-angiogenesis molecules have become cancer drugs. The scientists found no excess cancers in the mice given [NMN], but “more study is warranted,” they wrote.
As Rosanne Rosanadana used to say, “It’s always something.” Still, it appears that NMN boosts Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD+, a coenzyme naturally found in all living organisms that’s important for metabolic energy production in a way I don’t understand and which NMN appears to increase the body’s production of:
Thanks to negative studies, the jury is still out on whether anything related to sirtuins will extend lifespan, but the Cell study offers some hope for extending healthspan. If boosting NAD+ promotes blood vessel formation via SIRT1, it might “rescue muscle mass” that otherwise decreases as blood vessels atrophy, Guarente said. That could prevent the bone loss, frailty, and falls that can be fatal in old age.
“Anything that contributes to muscle health through vascular health is likely to be quite important,” said the Buck Institute’s Verdin, who takes a daily NAD+ precursor…
Sinclair and his team are now studying whether raising NAD+ might also spur the creation of blood vessels in the brain. There and in other organs, said Sinclair, “the lack of oxygen and buildup of waste products” that results from loss of small blood vessels “sets off a downward spiral of disease and disability.” In the brain, that would include vascular dementia.
Sinclair takes NMN to boost NAD+ levels. “In someone my age , it’s probably harder to see immediate benefits,” he said, though he said he feels sharper and younger on it. After his 78-year-old father began taking NMN “he started climbing mountains and going whitewater rafting and looking forward to the next five years,” Sinclair said. “It might be psychological, but it isn’t hurting.”
Climbing mountains at seventy-eight would be nice, but I’ll settle for being able to climb stairs. So should I rush out and get hold of some NMN?
One concern is that boosting sirtuins could backfire. An excess of the molecules, Verdin said, can promote autoimmunity, which causes diseases such as Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis.
And science is littered with examples of compounds that worked in mice but not people.
Sometimes I hate science journalism. See what you think. You can read Sharon Begley’s whole article by following the link to A dietary supplement makes old mice youthful. But will it work in people? at STAT.
Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist.