Researchers at Ohio University have been working on extending the lifespan since the 1990’s and already have the oldest living lab mouse to their credit. They also boast mice that are resistant to cancer, diabetes and cognitive decline because, according to the researchers, they have less accumulation of senescent cells (cells that have stopped dividing and that play a role in aging).
The team, led by led by John Kopchick, Ph.D., Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar and Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Heritage College, and principal investigator at the Edison Biotechnology Institute at Ohio University, has even supplied these long-lived mice to gerontology researchers all over the world.
Building upon this research and its startling results, last week the National Institutes of Health awarded a five-year grant for more than $2.23 million to the University for continued research into extending lifespan. Collaborating with Kopchick on the new research will be co-investigators Edward List, Ph.D., associate investigator with the Edison Biotechnology Institute, and Darlene Berryman, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., associate dean for research and innovation at the Heritage College.
One of the main objectives of NIH’s National Institute on Aging is funding research to increase human “healthspan,” which translates as “a better old age; a healthier old age.”
According to the proposal submitted to the NIH, the long-term goal of the research is “to determine the molecular mechanisms that are responsible for these remarkable health and longevity benefits.”
“We’re very excited about it,” said Kopchick. “There are two aims in the grant,” Kopchick explained. “One is disrupting the gene in the early adult life of a mouse. The second is to take the long-lived mouse, the longest-lived mouse in the world, and see if we can make it live longer and healthier by adding rapamycin, which in normal mice will promote longevity a bit. So, we want to tweak what we already did to see if we can make it better.” He believes that if the two aims of the research are successful, it would suggest it should be tried with humans.
They also want to see if lifespan can be further extended by treating the animals with rapamycin, a drug known to lengthen the lives of mice.
Kopchick stated, “The idea is, could a drug – our drug or similar compound – be used, not to delete the growth hormone receptor in humans, but to tie it up, to antagonize it, to prevent it from working.”
“So we have the longest-lived mouse, and we know that in young life we can see the [increased longevity] effect in females,” he said. “Now we want to see if we can see it in later adult life, and if we can, then can we use our drug or some similar yet-to-be-discovered compound to slow aging?”
We hope so, Dr. Kopchick.
1. NIH funds faculty research into extending lifespan. Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. September 20, 2018.