On the agenda - New drug could add years to life

In a nutshell A drug used to stop transplant recipients rejecting their new organs can significantly extend the lifespan of mice, according to a new paper. The anti-ageing pill was created from rapamycin, a chemical found in the soil of Easter Island.

New drug: could extend life
New drug: could extend life

How did this happen?
Scientists at the University of Texas fed rapamycin to mice late in their lives and found that the median and maximal lifespan of treated animals was extended by up to 14 per cent.

Why is this a big story?
The only known way to extend the life of a rodent is by severely restricting its diet, so this is the first report of a pharmacological intervention that lengthens life in mammals. But the drug is too dangerous to use as an anti-ageing pill for humans in its current form.

Media coverage
The research was published last week in Nature. The story was picked up by most of the nationals. The  Daily Express used the story on its front page, while The Sun ran with the headline: ‘Easter Island drug "adds decade to life"'. The story was also discussed on GMTV by the show's health and medical adviser Dr Hilary Jones.

PR strategy and support
Nature sent out a press release under embargo a week prior to publication. Nature press officer Jen Middleton led the in-house team and handled media enquiries. She said the team had worked hard to brief the media that the research had only been carried out on mice and it did not mean the drug would work on humans.

STATS

38%
increase in life expectancy for female mice on drug

28%
increase in life expectancy for male mice on drug

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