Researchers from the UNSW School of Medical Sciences and Harvard Medical School are just six months away from human trials of a new drug that appears to repair damaged DNA, reversing the effects of radiation and ageing.
Professor David Sinclair and Dr Lindsay Wu have spent four years isolating the metabolite NAD+, which helps regulate protein-to-protein interactions essential during our cells’ naturally occurring DNA repair capabilities. This natural cell repair function declines as we age and when exposed to radiation, including sunlight. The team has developed a NAD+ precursor, or ‘booster’, which has proven highly effective in reversing radiation damage and ageing in laboratory mice.
Professor Sinclair stated: “The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice, after just one week of treatment. This is the closest we are to a safe and effective anti-ageing drug that’s perhaps only three to five years away from being on the market if the trials go well.”
Published in Science, this research has attracted the attention of NASA, winning the US space agency’s iTech competition. NASA is hopeful this drug will help keep its astronauts healthy during a four-year mission to Mars, staving off the effects of cosmic radiation that impact astronauts’ health on even short missions. As well as astronauts, Dr Wu said this new drug may be able to help survivors of childhood cancers, most of whom go on to suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease by age 45. “All of this adds up to the fact they have accelerated ageing, which is devastating,” he said. “It would be great to do something about that, and we believe we can with this molecule.”
Following on from Professor Sinclair’s 2003 success in making the link between resveratrol, the naturally occurring molecule found in red wine, and the anti-ageing enzyme SIRT1, he and Dr Wu have been looking at other proteins and molecules which may impact the ageing process. Professor Sinclair stated: “While resveratrol activates SIRT1 alone, NAD+ boosters activate all seven sirtuins, SIRT1-7, and should have an even greater impact on health and longevity.” It has taken Professor Sinclair and Dr Wu’s company, MetroBiotech — in conjunction with the UNSW Laboratory for Ageing Research — four years to make NMN into a drug substance. Human trials are slated to commence at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital later this year.