Ibuprofen, a common over-the-counter drug used to relieve pain and fever, could hold the key to a longer, healthier life, according to a study conducted by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. The study, published in the December edition of PLoS Genetics, found that regular doses of ibuprofen extended the lifespan of yeast, worms and fruit flies.
"There is a lot to be excited about," said Brian Kennedy, CEO of the Buck Institute, in a press release. He said that the doses -- comparable to what is taken by humans -- extended lifespans an average of 15 percent in the model organisms. Chong He, a postdoctoral fellow at the Buck Institute and lead author on the paper, said the extended lifespan in the model organisms would be the equivalent to another dozen or so years of healthy living in humans.
"Not only did all the species live longer, but the treated flies and worms appeared more healthy," Kennedy said. "The research shows that ibuprofen impacts a process not yet implicated in aging, giving us a new way to study and understand the aging process." Kennedy said the study opens the door for a new exploration of so-called "anti-aging medicines." "Ibuprofen is a relatively safe drug, found in most people's medicine cabinets," he said. "There is every reason to believe there are other existing treatments that can impact healthspan and we need to be studying them."
The Buck Institute is interested in finding out why people get sick when they get old, Kennedy said. "We think that by understanding those processes, we can intervene and find ways to extend human healthspan to keep people healthier longer to slow down aging. That's our ultimate goal," he said.
Ibuprofen is in the class of compounds known as NSAIDs -- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used for relieving pain, helping with fever and reducing inflammation. Originally available only by prescription, it became available over-the-counter throughout the world in the 1980s. Although deemed relatively safe and commonly used, ibuprofen can have adverse side effects, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract, the liver and the kidneys at high doses.
The quest for a fountain of youth drug is, of course, nothing new. Much has been written about resveratrol, a chemical compound found in the skins and peels of grapes, berries and other fruits. It is also found in wine.