Research in the UK has found that one of the most commonly used painkillers may prevent premature aging and death by fighting inflammation.
Scientists have found a strong link between chronic inflammation which is caused by over-active immune systems, accelerated aging and shorter lifespan. A simple and cheap antidote to the toxic effects has been found in ibuprofen, an over-the-counter medicine.
The drug is used by millions of people in Britain to treat flu symptoms, sprains, muscle aches and headaches.
Scientists used the drug on mice that became inflammation-prone after being genetically prompted to boost their aging process. During a range of experiments, it was found that the inflammation in the mice was quelled, but the drug also restored the aging rate of the animals to normal levels.
Scientists believe that the results may be the same for humans with low-grade chronic inflammation, and the drug could protect them from premature aging. The team will continue doing clinical trials by studying data from other researchers.
The lead scientist from the Institute for Ageing and Health at Newcastle University, Professor Thomas von Zglinicki, stated that some people age much faster than others. He said that scientists are aware that faster aging is often linked to chronic inflammation. The results of their study have given them the opportunity to find out how inflammation aging can be delayed.
He added that this does not imply that everybody should start taking anti-inflammatory drugs on a daily basis, however it may be a good idea to check on the status of chronic inflammation and if it is high, anti-inflammatories may be effective.
He stated that during the experiments it was found that ibuprofen was only beneficial to mice that had had their rate of aging accelerated and had no effect on mice with normal levels of aging and inflammation. This means that the drug should not be viewed as a method of trying to defeat normal aging.
The mice used during the study were completely healthy, but lacked a gene that limits inflammatory response. They were given the same diet and placed in the same living conditions as wild-type mice, however, their aging process was twice as fast. They experienced weight loss, heart problems, impaired neuro-muscular co-ordination, premature hair loss and fur greying, much like humans would. They took less pride in their appearance which was visible by the scruffy fur and lack of grooming. Both their maximum and their average lifespans were reduced. An important factor was that the regenerative abilities of their intestines and livers were lost.
These mice were brought back to normal by the use of ibuprofen.
The scientists are looking to do tests on humans now, by using about 200 sufferers of Parkinson’s disease.
Image Credit: Kurtis Garbutt