Barshop Institute gets $7.5 million for aging intervention research
Exploring agents to help us live longer and healthier has become a multimillion-dollar project for the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies.
Over the next five years, scientists will receive $7.5 million from the National Institute on Aging to test for compounds that enhance healthy aging in mice.
The Barshop Institute is part of the NIA Interventions Testing Program, which began in 2004, and works with the University of Michigan and the Jackson Laboratory to test aging interventions. The Barshop Institute tests the effects of drugs on longevity and houses the ITP Pharmacology Unit.
“This grant represents a doubling in funding over our previous ITP award,” said Randy Strong, Ph.D., director and principal investigator of the San Antonio ITP. “This is now a $22 million consortium, with a third of the funding coming to the Barshop Institute in San Antonio.”
The program has studied the effects of 25 compounds in 35 survival studies. So far, five interventions have shown promise, including rapamycin, a medication that extended the life span of mice, even those only treated late in life. The anti-diabetic drug acarbose is also showing potential, said Dr. Strong, professor of pharmacology in the School of Medicine and research career scientist at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.
Early results have already impacted the fields of geriatrics and gerontology, providing the first strong evidence that a single drug can extend longevity by delaying or preventing the onset of multiple age-related diseases. Clinical trials are planned or are already under way to extend these findings to humans.
The NIA started a similar program using short-lived microscopic roundworms called Caenorhabditis elegans as an initial screen to speed up the identification of even more potential anti-aging interventions, Dr. Strong said.
“We are about the business of making lives better,” said Health Science CenterPresident William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP. “Basic science is critically important, as is translating discoveries to patient care. Basic science is the first step on the continuum. Translating basic science discoveries to better techniques and practices is what brings it full circle. In the end, it’s all about the patient’s life.”
Rapamycin testing in the ITP is having a direct economic impact on San Antonio. The ability of rapamycin-related drugs to potentially slow the aging process led to the establishment of a San Antonio biotech company, Rapamycin Holdings Inc., which is licensing exclusive rights to intellectual property central to several aspects of the rapamycin discovery.