Scientists from the Biogerontology Research Foundation (BGRF) in the U.K. have proposed a new computer-based method of screening drugs that could be used to slow the aging process in humans. The research, published in the journal Frontiers In Genetics, will be presented at the Practical Applications of Aging Research Symposium at MipTek 2014 in Basel, Switzerland.
An aging population is one of modern society’s major challenges. Advances in biomedicine and healthcare have led to unprecedentedly long lives after retirement—and an increased burden on the global economy.
There is an urgent need to develop geroprotective (protecting against aging) treatments that can increase the productive health spans of the working population, maintaining performance and avoiding loss of function. While research has extended the lifespan of some animals by up to ten times, applying these discoveries to humans has proved challenging.
To address these challenges, an international team of biogerontologists, geneticists, computer scientists and biomathematicians proposed using a computer simulation and laboratory validation approach using human cells and model organisms to predict what drugs may help fight aging in humans.
The proposed method uses gene expression data from “young” and “old” tissues to construct the cloud of molecular signalling pathways involved in ageing and longevity. It then evaluates the effects of a large number of drugs and drug combinations to emulate a youthful state for cells and tissues.
Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, Director of the Biogerontology Research Foundation, commented on the research, saying: “There are thousands of promising research projects that are likely to extend our lifespans in the future. But we need to find drugs as soon as possible to enable the elderly to live disease-free until rejuvenating technologies become available. There are thousands of compounds with known molecular targets. Due to high cost and the time it takes to complete experimental work, it is would be impossible to test all of the effects of these drugs in mice, let alone in humans. We need a better way of predicting the efficacy of a drug in humans. Our team has proposed a method for doing that in silico using multiple sources of data and may yield solutions that work on both population and individual levels which we hope to validate in the very near future.”
The BGRF salutes the many research teams and companies around the world that are working hard on finding drugs that restore lost function in, and ameliorate the suffering of, the elderly. The recent wave of start up activity in the field of ageing research, which includes Google’s Calico, Craig Venter’s Human Longevity Inc. and In Silico Medicine (which uses a signalling pathway regulation approach) holds a lot of promise for the whole area of biogerontology.
“The decreases in cost and increased availability of genetic and epigenetic research as well as recent breakthroughs in computer technologies are already helping us make better decisions in biomedicine. This proposed method may take the in silico approach to drug discovery to the next level. If they can validate it in the laboratory, and we are working on that as we speak, this may revolutionise ageing research”, said Anton Buzdin, the director of the First Oncology Research and Advisory Center and CEO of Pathway Pharmaceuticals in Hong Kong.
The paper, which describes the new approach to the screening and ranking of geroprotective drugs, was published in the reputable scientific journal Frontiers in Genetics.