Thursday, September 29, 2011


There may be a naturally occurring fountain of youth at large in nature today. But how are we to know whether it’s the real deal when scientists cannot agree on its efficacy or application?

A New York Times article from last week states in its headline: “Longevity Gene Debate Opens Trans-Atlantic Rift.” Indeed, scholars from Michigan to London have been arguing for the last decade about the effects of resveratrol, a substance found in small quantities in wine and believed by some to extend the human lifespan.

In the recent past, hopeful American researchers have been countered by skeptics from across the pond who claim that the “longevity gene” does not exist. These Brits believe that, though recent studies have shown a 40% increase in longevity of rats due to a low-calorie diet and stimulated “longevity gene,” these studies may have been an ill-conceived sham. That longevity gene, which produces sirtuins (proteins which control cell metabolism and naturally occur in resveratrol—which naturally occurs in the skin of grapes), has been the object of scientists’ desires as of late. Sirtuins are proteins which control crucial cell functions like transcription, metabolism, and apoptosis. How can we stimulate the genes which produce these proteins to extend lives?

One answer: red wine! Because the average merlot contains trace amounts of reveratrol, it is now believed that drinking one glass of wine per day can prolong lives.

However, inspired by this discovery, scientists in the US and Europe are pursuing a pharmaceutical answer to red wine. Despite questions as to whether or not reveratrol truly boosts longevity, pharmabusiness giant GlaxoSmithKline dropped over $700 million to develop a resveratrol-feigning drug called Sirtris in 2008.

Questions remain as to whether or not sirtuin is efficacious without the extremely low-calorie diet, something untenable for most modern humans. And researchers from the University College of London have entirely refuted trials supposedly proving sirtuin efficacy in Drosophila.

As the two UCL scientists recently wrote, “The biology of againg is a young field with emerging pitfalls.” But there is still great hope in scientific communities that sirtuins and resveratrol may be two possible contenders in an ongoing search for a biological or pharmaceutical “fountain of youth.”

Longevity Gene Debate Opens Trans-Atlantic RiftBy NICHOLAS WADE
Published: September 21, 2011

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