Researchers discovered that the drug rilmenidine can extend the life and slow down the aging process. Published in Aging Cell, the findings show that animals treated with rilmenidine, currently used to treat hypertension, at young and older ages increase lifespan and improves health markers, mimicking the effects of caloric restriction. They also demonstrate that the healthspan and lifespan benefits of rilmenidine treatment in the roundworm C. elegans are mediated by the I1-imidazoline receptor nish-1, identifying this receptor as a potential longevity target.
Unlike other drugs previously studied for this purpose by the researchers, the widely-prescribed, oral antihypertensive rilmenidine has the potential for future translatability to humans as side effects are rare and non-severe.
To date, a caloric restriction diet has been considered the most robust anti-aging intervention, promoting longevity across species. However, studies of caloric restriction in humans have had mixed results and side effects, meaning finding medications like rilmenidine that can mimic the benefits of caloric restriction is the most reasonable anti-aging strategy.
Professor Joao Pedro Magalhaes, who led the research whilst at the University of Liverpool and is now based at the University of Birmingham, said: "With a global ageing population, the benefits of delaying ageing, even if slightly, are immense. Repurposing drugs capable of extending lifespan and healthspan has a huge untapped potential in translational geroscience. For the first time, we have been able to show in animals that rilmenidine can increase lifespan. We are now keen to explore if rilmenidine may have other clinical applications."