Compound Extends Life, Combats Alzheimer’s

Moai statues in the Rano Raraku Volcano in Easter Island, Chile. | Image by Gabor Kovacs Photography/Shutterstock
Moai statues in the Rano Raraku Volcano in Easter Island, Chile. | Image by Gabor Kovacs Photography/Shutterstock

Scientists are still discovering the benefits of a compound discovered 50 years ago on Easter Island.

In 1964, a team of scientists sent to study the island and its population noticed that the inhabitants never contracted tetanus, reported The Epoch Times. They discovered a substance in the soil that had antibacterial and antifungal properties. The scientists named the substance rapamycin after the indigenous name for the island, Rapa Nui.

Further study lead scientists to find that the substance inhibited cell growth — making it an ideal anti-cancer drug — and acted as an immunosuppressant — making it an ideal drug for transplant recipients. In 1999, the FDA approved it for use in kidney transplant patients. In 2007, the FDA approved it for treating kidney cancer. Dr. Robert Lufkin, adjunct clinical professor at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, told The Epoch Times that it has since been approved as a primary or adjunct therapy for eight types of cancer.

“It appears to have a positive effect on cancer control in patients who have transplants—for example, heart transplants,” said Lufkin. “The most common cause of death after the transplant is not organ rejection, but it is actually a cancer.”

A 2009 study found that rapamycin extended the lifespan of mice — by 14% for females and 9% for males — which has since been corroborated by other researchers. Some people have even started taking the compound in small doses in the hope of extending their lives.

“At the doses used clinically, rapamycin can have undesirable side-effects, but for the use of the drug in the prevention of age-related decline, these need to be absent or minimal,” Dr. Paula Juricic, director at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, told Science Daily in 2022, commenting on a study done on rapamycin in laboratory animals. “Therefore, we wanted to find out when and how long we need to give rapamycin in order to achieve the same effects as lifelong treatment.”

The study found that the compound given to the animals had the same positive effects as treatments normally given over the course of a lifetime.

A study published in 2023 surveyed 333 adults taking rapamycin under a physician’s supervision to determine their reason for taking the compound.

The results found that 313 of the users reported they were taking it for healthy longevity and anti-aging, 62 for dementia prevention, 27 for cardiovascular disease, and 12 for cancer. None of the respondents took the compound for its stated use of immunosuppression following organ transplant.

There are currently over 100 clinical trials taking place with rapamycin, reported The Epoch Times.

“I think there are possibly great benefits from it that we do not even begin to understand now,” Lufkin told the publication.

The compound has also been found to stimulate hair regrowth and prevent hair loss. It has also shown positive results in treating Alzheimer’s and other conditions, including diabetes.

As Texas Health and Human Services noted, there has been a stark rise in type 2 diabetes among children and young people, a trend the agency has said was directly related to higher rates of obesity and increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

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