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According to a new study, a new experimental drug could boost immune system in elderly people by 20% and also help them to delay other aging effects.

The new drug, which is a version of the drug rapamycin, targets a genetic signaling pathway that is linked to aging and immune function.  In the study the drug improved immune response of seniors to a flu vaccine by a 20%.

Rapamycin belongs to a class of drug, which are known as mTOR inhibitors.  It has shown to counteract aging and aging related diseases in mice and other animals.

The mTOR genetic pathway promotes healthy growth in the bodies of young people. However, it has a negative effect on mammals as they grow older.

Dr. Joan Mannick, executive director of the New Indications Discovery Unit at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research and the lead author of the study, said, “When drugs like rapamycin are used to inhibit the effects of the mTOR pathway in mice, they seem to extend lifespan and delay the onset of aging-related illnesses.”

Mannick and his colleagues conducted a clinical trial, on more than 200 people, age 65 and older. They randomly received either the experimental drug or a placebo for several weeks.  They were then given a dose of the flu vaccine.

The researchers observed that the experimental version of rapamycin created 20% more antibodies in response to the flu vaccine compared to those who took the placebo. The researchers also found that the group that took the experimental version of rapamycin had fewer white blood cells, which are associated with age-related immune decline.

It’s very important to point out that the risk/benefit of mTOR inhibitors should be established in clinical trials before anybody thinks this could be used to treat aging-related conditions.  Also, this is the first step towards creating a new anti-aging drug.

The findings were published in the current issue of Science Translational Medicine.

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