While everyone was focused on the political shenanigans involving Russia’s interference with the U.S. elections, a different kind of breakthrough was developing in Moscow — one worth noting as the global population continues to age.
Scientists from Lomonosov Moscow State University, working with those from Stockholm University in Sweden, have used a new compound to slow the aging process in mice.
The compound is an artificial antioxidant, SkQ1, and it already is sold in Russia as part of an eye drops solution. It is still undergoing clinical trials in the U.S.
The findings were published in the U.S. journal Aging.
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In the experiments, SkQ1 targeted the mitochondria of genetically modified mice. (Mitochondria are double-membraned organelles found in the cytoplasm of cells that are essential to energy production.) The genetically modified mice had had a single mutation introduced into their genome, resulting in accelerated aging and early death of the mutant mice. (These modified mice live less than one year, while a normal mouse lives more than two years.)
When these mice were 100 days old, scientists treated one mutant group with small doses of SkQ1 by adding it to their drinking water. Another group of animals served as a control group receiving only water. At the age of about 200 to 250 days, the difference between the two groups became obvious.
The mutant mice that drank only water aged as expected, quite rapidly. They lost weight, their skin thinned, and they experienced severe curvature of the spine due to osteoporosis. Their mobility and oxygen consumption were decreased as well.
In contrast, these age-related traits were either dramatically slowed in the group treated with SkQ1 or did not appear in that group at all.
Though more studies will probably be needed, this proves researchers’ hypothesis that the compound protects animal cells from the toxic byproducts of mitochondria known as free radicals.
“This work is quite valuable from both theoretical and practical points of view,” Vladimir Skulachev of Moscow State University, creator of the SkQ1 molecule and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “First, it clearly demonstrates the key role of mitochondrially produced reactive oxygen species in the process of aging in mammals. At the same time our study opens the way to the treatment of aging with mitochondrially-targeted antioxidants.”
Skulachev and the team are now working on developing pharmaceuticals based on SkQ1 molecule. The first drug — Visomitin eye drops — is already sold in Russia and has passed Phase 2 clinical trials in the U.S. The next step is an oral form of SkQ1, now in clinical trials in Russia. If these go well, the drug could be approved in two to three years.