Mouse anti-aging drug to undergo its first human trials

Right now, if you want your pet mouse to live longer, you could do worse than dosing it with nicotinamide mononucleotide (henceforth, for the sake of my keyboard, abbreviated to NMN). In studies on mice, rodents fed NMN – a nucleotide that naturally occurs in some foodstuffs, most notably milk – slowed their natural decline in eyesight, metabolism and glucose intolerance. In other words, it’s a genuine bonafide anti-aging drug, albeit one currently limited to our smaller, furrier citizens.

Mouse anti-aging drug to undergo its first human trials

Could it offer such impressive results on humans? We’re about to find out, as the world’s first anti-aging human trials kick off in Japan, in a joint project run by Keio and Washington universities.

“We’ve confirmed a remarkable effect in the experiment using mice, but it’s not clear yet how much [NMN] will affect humans,” lead researcher Shin-ichiro Imai explained in an interview with The Japan News.nmn_mouse_anti_aging_study

Indeed. Mice are an excellent human substitute given their genome similarity to us, combined by the fact that making more of them is extremely quick and easy, but they’re far from perfect. There are plenty of examples of promising looking drugs that performed wonders on rodents, but did nothing when it came to the human stage. Indeed, it’s a running joke in the science community that mice have it pretty lucky, because you can cure anything in them – including cancer.

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Gizmodo explains, there are particular problems with mice as anti-aging guinea pigs (if you’ll excuse the crossing of species.) “A mouse lives so much shorter than a human because it has much less thorough automatic, in-built damage repair machinery,” biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey said, adding that “we may never have a non-aging mouse, and I’m sure we won’t have one for a long time after we have a non-aging human.” In other words, improving mouse life-span is pretty easy to do, because they’re simply not built to last. Humans are, comparatively speaking, much more robust already.

So something that promises to slow the aging process in mice is actually pretty unlikely to work in humans – but hey, we won’t know for sure until we try, and even if it doesn’t have quite the same dramatic impacts, that doesn’t mean it won’t have any benefits. Watch this space.

Images: Zach Welty and Mark Bray used under Creative Commons

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