Tech moguls and longevity gurus are using a $2 organ transplant pill to reverse AGING

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Rapamycin has been shown in mice to regulate the process by which cells age
  • No conclusive evidence that the drug works in people, only mice and fruitflies 
  • READ MORE: Anti-aging routines are pointless without one secret ingredient

A cheap drug approved to keep transplant patients’ bodies from rejecting their new organs is now being used to reject something else: aging. 

Rapamycin – which costs around $2.30 per pill – has become the latest obsession among longevity experts and biohackers who say it can slow down the aging process.

Despite a lack of evidence that it works in humans, that hasn’t stopped many from calling it a ‘proven anti-aging drug’, with online pharmacies and doctors in clinics prescribing it more and more. 

It’s believed to work by blocking the actions of a protein that regulates cell growth and breakdown. Then, a process called autophagy occurs, which entails recycling damaged cells to prevent the buildup of toxins and other harmful substances.

Rapamycin was initially approved to prevent transplant patients from rejecting their new organs. But researchers have also found that it regulates the ways cells grow and replicate, a hallmark feature of the aging process

Longevity expert Dr Peter Attia has been taking rapamycin since 2019 and said the only downside he's experienced is canker sores on his tongue

Longevity expert Dr Peter Attia has been taking rapamycin since 2019 and said the only downside he’s experienced is canker sores on his tongue

Think of it as a cellular clean-up crew or quality control for cellular health. A growing number of researchers argue that it increases one’s lifespan and mitigates the risks of contracting age-related chronic diseases.

The drug’s anti-aging effects have only been tested in fruit flies, mice, and worms. 

Still, high-profile longevity experts like Peter Attia and Bryan Johnson believe its potential for preventing bodily decay is enormous and worthy of scientists’ attention.

The FDA approved rapamycin in 1999 as an anti-rejection drug for organ transplant recipients.

But in 2009, a game-changing study published in Nature conducted by doctors across the US found that when the drug was given to mice, it increased the lifespan by 14 percent for females and nine percent for males.

It works by blocking TOR, which sets off a cellular signaling pathway in the body that regulates cell growth and aging. 

Then, in 2014, pharmacology experts tested the drug in humans and found that it actually bolstered their immune systems, prompting a 20 percent greater response to flu vaccines.

A survey of 504 adults published last year reported that, of 333 people taking it, 65.5 percent believed it had effective anti-aging properties, and nearly half said their health had improved since beginning a rapamycin regimen, typically under the guidance of a doctor.

Over 35 percent said their brain ‘works better’ on the drug, and 38 percent said they felt younger. 

Dozens reported a range of other benefits, including lowered anxiety, improved relationships, alleviated arthritis pain, improved quality of sleep and vision, and reduced frequency of menopause-related hot flashes.

Dr Peter Attia, a longevity expert and author of Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity, who has been taking rapamycin for at least five years, said: ‘This exotic molecule, found only on an isolated scrap of land in the middle of the ocean, acts almost like a switch that inhibits a very specific cellular mechanism that exists in nearly everything that lives.

He added that ‘this fact still blows my mind every time I think about it.’

The molecule is produced by soil bacteria on the extremely remote Easter Island located in the South Pacific and was initially used for its antifungal properties. It was later discovered to have immunosuppressive effects that doctors knew could benefit transplant patients.

Dr Attia said: ‘When looking at other markers, other interesting things such as vision and hearing and other markers of healthspan, we continue to see improvements in these things for animals as well.

‘I’m more bullish on rapa simply because I’ve been taking it now for three years.’

Famous eccentric biohacker Bryan Johnson takes rapamycin with the diabetes drug Metformin, which he considers to be 'the 10th best-performing of all time'

Famous eccentric biohacker Bryan Johnson takes rapamycin with the diabetes drug Metformin, which he considers to be ‘the 10th best-performing of all time’

Protocols for dosing the drug largely come from animal studies, but that hasn’t stopped doctors from bringing it into the mainstream. The telehealth company Healthspan has started marketing it for anti-aging use in a cream form that the company also says can stimulate hair growth.

Daniel Tawfik, who launched Healthspan, said that more than 2,000 people have subscribed to its rapamycin service. He said, ‘The potential is enormous for patients to be able to extend their health span and quality of life as they age,’ adding that his firm’s experience shows that rapamycin can be prescribed safely.

Bryan Johnson, a world-famous eccentric biohacker who takes his anti-aging measures to the extreme, i.e. swapping his blood with some of his younger son’s, has also touted its benefits, particularly when combined with the diabetes drug Metformin.

He said the combination ‘is the 10th best-performing of all time.’

The field is an exciting one, but scientists caution that more research needs to be done in other mammal species, including humans, to say for sure that the drug actually has the effects that biohackers praise.

Dr. Dao-Fu Dai, rapamycin assistant professor of pathology at the University of Iowa Health Care, said his team’s findings in mice were ‘exciting’ but by no means conclusive.

He told Medical News Today: ‘The things that need to be done in the future will involve [the] mammalian system, right, because drosophila [fruit flies] is much easier to do; mammals take much longer time.’

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