Successful anti-aging compound in found fruit bowl

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Fruit-based compound Urolithin A improves mitochondrial function and slows aging: Nestlé Health Science to partner with university spin-out.

Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) spin-out company Amazentis, in conjunction with the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics has discovered that a substance originating in pomegranates and other fruits can have a beneficial effect on mitochondrial function which results in the slowing of certain aging processes.

Longevity.Technology: As we get older, our cells begin to lose their ability to recycle defective mitochondria, a process called autophagy where cells digest the worn-out or defective organelles; this means the cells can reuse the molecular building blocks, but it also prevents the damaged mitochondria from emitting toxins and dangerous free radicals.

The TRL score for this Longevity.Technology domain is currently set at: ‘Technology completes secondary trials and provides further evidence for safety and efficacy.’

TRL7 orange

The TRL score for the technology addressed in this article is: “Late proof of concept demonstrated in real-life conditions.”

Metabolites are products of metabolic reactions that are synthesised naturally within cells and are catalysed by enzymes. In this case, pomegranates, raspberries and walnuts, among other berries and nuts, contain the molecule ellagitannins which is converted by human gut bacteria into Urolithin A. Rather than adopting a hit and miss approach, as only some people’s systems will have the correct or correct amount of gut bacteria [1], Amazentis synthesised the compounds themselves and then provided trial participants with a measured dose that delivered a carefully-controlled amount of Urolithin A directly [2].

Urolithin A has the ability to re-establish cells’ autophagic ability; not only does this reduce the amount of damaging free radicals that trigger nerve cell death, causing the symptoms of the debilitating neurodegenerative disease Parkinson’s [3], but slows the weakening of tissues and the loss of skeletal muscle mass [4]. Tissue and skeletal muscle mass loss are both associated with aging [5] and being able to prevent or slow down these processes delays aging.

Previous trials on the nemotode C. elegans had demonstrated that worms exposed to Urolithin A had their lifespan increased by more than 45% when compared with the unexposed control group [6].

The team assessed the effects of Urolithin A by reviewing cellular and mitochondrial health biomarkers in the blood and muscle tissue of the patients in the trial. They found that Urolithin A increased mitochondrial gene expression response next to skeletal muscle and improved systemic plasma acylcarnitines associated with cellular and mitochondrial function [7] all without any side-effects or ill effects on the health of the trial participants.

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of our cells; being able to extend our cells’ ability to keep them repaired and recycled could be a Longevity gamechanger. Patrick Aebischer co-author on the research agrees: “Mitochondrial and cellular health declines with age, making these results a pivotal milestone as we explore the full breadth of benefits Urolithin A offers for managing human health throughout the aging process [8].”

EPFL researcher and co-author Johan Auwerx says: “The nutritional approach opens up territory that traditional pharma has never explored. It’s a true shift in the scientific paradigm [9].” Investors are already showing interest in the possibilities of anti-aging superfoods – Nestlé Health Science has announced it is going into partnership with Amazentis to develop products containing Urolithin A [10].

Much anti-aging news features nanobot or new drugs; Urolithin A, by virtue of its simplicity and clinical trial results, could outpace them all in terms of speed to market, affordability and convenience – could we see it being added to cereals like folic acid or drinking water like fluoride?

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5545574/
[2] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160711120533.htm
[3] https://www.getscience.com/biology-explained/why-mitochondria-organelle-moment
[4] https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-06-pomegranate-compound-anti-aging-effects-human.html
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30048806
[6] https://www.nature.com/articles/nm.4132
[7] https://bit.ly/2Ya0z1b
[8] https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190614005279/en/
[9] https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-07/epfd-pfr070616.php
[10] https://bit.ly/2WzkXIg
Image: Frank Fell Media / Shutterstock.com
Eleanor Garth
Deputy Editor Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.

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