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Biotechnology and health

These anti-aging pills seem to be actually working

Pills hailed as the first real “anti-aging” drugs inched a little closer to the market after a study found they cut the number of respiratory infections in the elderly by half.

The drugs: The pills act on an aging-related pathway called TORC1. Inhibiting this pathway “has extended life span in every species studies to date,” according to Joan Mannick, who led the study for drug giant Novartis. Those species include mice and worms.

Will humans live longer, too? Maybe. But that will take time to figure out. For now, what’s known is that giving people 65 and older these drugs seems to boost their immune function. Elderly people taking the drugs got about 40 percent fewer colds or bronchial infections. About 264 people got the drugs over six weeks and then were tracked for a year.

The next aspirin? Some people think so. Matt Kaeberlein, an aging researcher at the University of Washington, told the Guardian, “I think this study raises the real possibility that most middle-aged adults could benefit from short-term treatments.” 

Who is involved: Although the study was carried out at Novartis, the drugs were sold last year to resTORbio, a startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that recently went public and was cofounded by Mannick.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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