Acarbose extends lifespan in mice

Bar Harbor, Maine—A research team led by Jackson Laboratory (JAX) Professor David Harrison, Ph.D., reports that acarbose, a drug that is frequently prescribed in Europe for type 2 diabetes, extends the lifespan of mice, with male mice showing a more pronounced effect than the females.

The researchers at JAX, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, University of Michigan and other institutions also report that three other agents (17-a -estradiol, nordihydroguaiaretic acid and methylene blue) increased lifespan to lesser degrees that vary by gender. The study appears in the journal Aging Cell.

Though the mechanisms behind the lifespan-extending effects of acarbose have yet to be determined, reducing insulin levels could be a factor, says Jackson Laboratory Senior Research Scientist Kevin Flurkey, Ph.D., a coauthor of the study. "Acarbose inhibits digestion of complex carbohydrates. It diminishes the release of glucose into the bloodstream from the food you’re digesting, preventing insulin spikes."

In 2009, under the Interventions Testing Program of the National Institute of Aging that also funded this research, the Harrison lab reported that rapamycin significantly extends the lifespan of mice, the first demonstration of a pharmaceutical intervention to do so in mammals.

In related research, also reported in Aging Cell, the researchers at the three institutions also showed recently that the lifespan-extending effects of rapamycin vary with both dosage of the drug and gender of the mice, with greater effect in females than males.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs more than 1,500 staff, and its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.