Rapamycin, Easter Island Drug, Shows Promise In Boosting Aging Brain, Mice Study Shows

Scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio are investigating a potential new drug that could improve learning and memory during aging -- thanks to Easter Island?

The drug, called rapamycin, comes from isolated bacterial products in the soil of the Polynesian island, known as the home to the famous moai statues. When given to mice, rapamycin seems to boost cognitive skills in young and old mice.

"We made the young ones learn, and remember what they learned, better than what is normal," study researcher Veronica Galvan, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies at the UT Health Science Center, said in a statement. "Among the older mice, the ones fed with a diet including rapamycin actually showed an improvement, negating the normal decline that you see in these functions with age."

The mice in the Neuroscience study also had fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety when given the rapamycin, researchers found.

Rapamycin -- which is named for the Polynesian name for Easter Island, Rapa Nui -- is already used for antifungal purposes among transplant patients.

In 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that rapamycin was shown in a Nature study to help mice live longer.