A new compound extracted from grape seed could help increase our average lifespan while also improving overall fitness and health.
Aging can be a bit of a problem. Not only can it be unpleasant, but it’s linked to a number of chronic health conditions. Increasingly, researchers are looking at aging as a disease and not an inexorable effect of the passage of time. Understandably, finding anti-aging drugs is an attractive goal, but aging is also complex, linked with a number of different processes. In a new study, researchers tackled one such process, focusing on senescent — or zombie cells.
As you age, some cells don’t really work properly. These cells stop dividing and instead just accumulate, potentially leading to a number of degenerative effects in the body. These cells are a problem as they also inhibit the activity of other cells. They’re zombies, clogging up the cellular mechanisms inside your body. In recent years, researchers have increasingly been focusing on a type of drug called senolytics: drugs that target these zombie cells and the problems they cause.
Many different compounds have been trialed for use in senolytics, with various degrees of success. Qixia Xu at the University of Chinese Academy of
Scientists in Shanghai and colleagues screened a library of chemicals linked to aging to look for new compounds that could be useful against senescent cells. They zoomed in on something called procyanidin C1 (PCC1), a chemical commonly found in grape seeds (?).
They first tested it out in vitro (in a petri dish), where low concentrations of PCC1 were found to prevent the zombie cells from producing problematic substances, and high concentrations were found to kill them — while leaving the younger cells unaffected. They then moved on to real-life mouse tests.
Three experiments were devised to assess the effects of PCC1. In the first one, mice were injected with a dose of radiation to induce cellular aging. This produced similar effects to some therapies like chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The mice that underwent radiation exhibited a number of symptoms associated with aging, including gray hair and decreased muscle mass. But the mice that were treated with PCC1 showed a reversal in muscle problems and exhibited significantly lower numbers of aging cells.
In the second experiment, older mice were once again split into a control group and a PCC1 group. Compared to the mice in the control group, the PCC1 mice had better endurance, grip strength, and healthier organs. In the third experiment, old mice were given PCC1 to see what effect this would have on the lifespan of the mice. The elderly mice’s lifespan was extended by 64% from the moment of the treatment, or 9% from their total lifespan.
All in all, the results are encouraging and warrant further research. If the compound is deemed safe for humans, which will be analyzed in future research, this exciting new compound could soon enter human trials.
Journal reference: Nature Metabolism, DOI: 10.1038/s42255-021-00491-8