Findings of a clinical trial have shown that two experimental anti-aging drugs appear to safely boost the immune system of the elderly and protect them from infection.

RAD001 And Bez235

In a new study, Felipe Sierra, from the National Institute on Aging, and colleagues tested the anti-aging effects of giving older adults low doses of the drugs called RAD001 and BEZ235. The first drug is used to fight cancer and prevent rejection in organ transplant patients, while the second was developed as a cancer drug.

Both of these drugs are known as mTOR inhibitors, which affect a cellular pathway that plays a role in the body's immune system and other biological functions. Similar drugs have earlier been associated with extending the lifespan of animals in laboratory settings.

The researchers gave 264 individuals who were at least 65 years old various doses of one or a combo of these two drugs and placebo every day for a period of six weeks.

Effects On Immunity And Infection Rate

After a year, researchers found that the participants who received the two-drug combo had 1.49 infections, such as bronchitis and cold, per year. Those in the placebo group had 2.41 infections per year. The difference is equivalent to about 40 percent reduction in infections.

Researchers also said that the drugs boosted how the participants' immune system response to flu vaccine. They found that the drugs increased the levels of flu antibodies by more than 20 percent, a significant increase particularly for older people who are vulnerable to flu.

"I think this study raises the real possibility that most middle-aged adults could benefit from short-term treatments with mTOR inhibitors," said Matt Kaeberlein, director of the Healthy Aging and Longevity Research Institute at the University of Washington

As people grow old, their immune system weakens, making them more vulnerable to infections. Vaccines also do not work well on older and weaker immune systems. The researchers said that the findings hold promise of giving non-toxic drugs in low dose to older people to protect them from infection.

"Selective TORC1 inhibition has the potential to improve immune function and reduce infections in the elderly," researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine on July 11.

More Research Needed

The researchers, however, warned that further study is needed to confirm the findings and show the safety of the drugs. They also said that the findings are based on a relatively small number of participants and employed methods that may lead to misleading results.

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