Rapamycin - The Apeiron Life Perspective

Rapamycin As A Healthspan Enhancer

Perspective By:

Dev Mishra, M.D.

Medical Director, Apeiron Life

What Is Rapamycin?

Rapamycin is a naturally occurring anti-fungal, anti-biotic, and immune suppressor drug produced by soil bacteria originally found on Easter Island. In 1999 the FDA approved the brand name version of the drug, Rapamune. Approved uses of the drug are for immune suppression with organ transplantation, and to coat coronary artery stents in the heart.

Rapamycin belongs to a class of drugs called “mTOR inhibitors”. mTOR stands for “mammalian target of rapamycin”, and it is a protein that helps control several cell functions, including cell division and cell survival. Simplistically, blocking mTOR such as with a drug like rapamycin, can cause cancer cells to die, and enhance the survival of healthy cells.

What Are The Claimed Benefits Of Rapamycin Regarding Healthspan and Longevity?

Healthspan expert David Sinclair calls rapamycin “one of the most consistently successful compounds for extending life” in his book Lifespan. The problem for all of us humans is that most of the evidence comes from studies in small mammals, worms, and yeast.

What Does The Science Say?

Some of the most compelling research on the effectiveness of rapamycin as a lifespan extender comes from studies on yeast, worms, and small animals. In one of the most influential studies published in 2009 author David Harrison and colleagues showed that rapamycin extended the life expectancy and energy levels of male mice by 28% and female mice by 38%.

With those types of results, it’s easy to see why health influencers and bloggers jumped on the rapamycin bandwagon and began touting its use to enhance human healthspan and lifespan.

However, the available clinical evidence in humans is derived from the trials conducted for people undergoing organ transplantation and the potential side effects are significant. In early clinical trials the dropout rate was about 5% due to intolerable side effects, and the current FDA indications indicate that rapamycin carries “serious or life-threatening risks” – at the doses used for immune suppression.

At this time there are no high-quality published studies regarding the safety, efficacy, and dosing required to enhance human healthspan.

Promise for the use of mTOR inhibitors may be found soon in “rapalogs”, which are drugs designed to inhibit mTOR but with a better safety profile. Several rapalogs are currently in development.

What Is My Perspective?

The small animal data is compelling, and the positive effects seen on cell function in the laboratory are profound. However, critical data on safety, effectiveness, and dosing regimens when used in humans for healthspan and longevity are needed.

Will It Benefit You?

At this time I feel the potential risks and unknowns outweigh the possible benefits and I would not recommend using rapamycin as a healthspan optimizer. I would recommend we follow this space closely for appropriate human trials, and for the development of rapalogs.

References And Additional Reading: