Anti-ageing drug 3-5 years away thanks to Aussie research

Professor David Sinclair and his UNSW team. Credit: Britta Campion

Would you take a drug to prevent your body from ageing? It might seem like science fiction, but UNSW researchers have synthetically created a molecule that treats (and could even reverse) damage done to DNA from ageing and radiation.

Published in Science, the research team lead by Prof David Sinclair of UNSW School of Medical Sciences, explained that every one of our cells has the ability to repair DNA damage via the metabolite NAD+. Over time the ability of our cells to repair themselves declines, which can be due to factors such as ageing and exposure to radiation (the sun).

By introducing a precursor of NAD+, called NMN, the researchers were able to improve cell’s ability to repair DNA damage caused by ageing and radiation in mice.

“The cells of the old mice were indistinguishable from the young mice, after just one week of treatment,” said Sinclair. Human trials with NMN are thought to begin in just six months.

This is huge news, not just for everyday but for the extraordinary.

For example, one of the largest hurdles of space exploration is the amount of cosmic radiation that astronauts are exposed to, which causes accelerated ageing, including muscle weakness and memory loss. This treatment could potentially make long term space exploration possible — even making a manned trip to Mars plausible sooner than we thought.

Back home, NMN therapy could hold tremendous benefits for childhood cancer survivors. A colleague of Prof Sinclair, Dr Lindsay Wu, explains that 96% of childhood cancer survivors suffer from a chronic illness by age 45, such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and unrelated cancers. “All of this adds up to the fact they have accelerated ageing, which is devastating,” he says.

But it doesn’t stop with treating ageing: the researchers have already established that NMN and NAD+ could be useful for treating female infertility and side effects of chemotherapy.