Resveratrol, for a Longer, Healthier Life
> 1/24/2007 3:27:39 PM

Concluding his cover story from this week's Fortune magazine, David Stipp writes:

Humanity has dreamed for millennia of medicines that extend life span. Sirtris may not fulfill the dream. But the company's very existence shows that the quest for compounds that slow aging has been transformed from sorcery into the fairly routine process of pharmaceutical development. Thus, the dream is likely to be realized within, at most, a few decades. The question now is when, not if.

It wasn't too long ago when this kind of talk was relegated strictly to science fiction, but as his story entitled Can red wine help you live forever? shows, the possibilities for astoundingly beneficial new drugs has exploded in recent years.

At the center of Stipp's story is resveratrol, the naturally occurring molecule found in grape skin and wine that researchers hypothesize may hold enormous potential as a drug to fight many of the diseases of aging, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's. A Harvard doctor and researcher, David Sinclair, was the first to demonstrate that resveratrol increased the lifespan of yeast cells by as much as 70%. He speculated that this was because resveratrol activated an enzyme that then stimulated mitocondrial replacement in living cells. This process would cut down on most of the free radicals that cause so many problems as we age.

Fortune picked up the story because Sinclair has teamed with a medical doctor turned venture capitalist named Christoph Westphal, after the latter heard of the former's amazing discovery. Since then, while scientists around the world have shown that resveratrol does indeed prolong life in a number of species, Westphal and Sinclair have labored to turn the supplement into a viable pharmaceutical product. By making the molecule more bioavailable, and parsing it's complex interactions within the human body, their company Sirtris hopes to do all of the things that Stipp implies in his closing.

The company, which hopes to begin testing a diabetes drug in the near future, may still be a ways away from creating that one pill to cure the body's ills, but what the article makes clear is that resveratrol is an important and powerful substance. Longitudinal studies of its effects on human subjects are virtually impossible (to see any sort of results would require decades), but resveratrol can already be found in supplement form and if even one tenth of what researchers believe ends up being true, it represents a potent, useful source of healing.

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