The next longevity trend involves a kidney transplant drug, an immunosuppressant medication, that may hold more benefits than previously known. And biohackers are listening.
According to data-driven research, rapamycin, an FDA-approved drug to prevent organ rejection in kidney transplant patients, may help fight aging. However, the drug doesn't come without serious side effects.
Previous research has found that the drug can extend the lifespan of mice, yeast, worms, and flies — where one fly lived until 60 days old when they typically live on average for 28 days. In mice, rapamycin extended their lifespan by two months, which is six years in the human lifespan.
It is part of a group of mTOR inhibitors, which slow cellular growth and prevent inflammation and damaged cells by reducing inflammation, aging, and age-related diseases. Instead of suppressing immunity, rapamycin rejuvenates immunity. By inhibiting mTOR, the body delays the aging process.
Moreover, rapamycin enhances autophagy — AKA a process that keeps the cells healthy but removing abnormal or damaged components in cells.
In addition to cells, rapamycin can also be found in creams for people who have certain skin conditions like abnormalities or psoriasis. The drug is found to also help with sun spots and wrinkles and reduce sagging skin.
The drug was approved by the FDA in 1994 to organ rejection transplant patients and in 2011 it was approved for the use of pancreatic cancer patients.
Regarding finding rapamycin for personal longevity use, most people are buying the drug off-label, meaning it is unapproved for this type of usage. Pfizer Inc. sells a kidney transplant drug called sirolimus under the brand name Rapamune, with an off-label prescription costing $150 for generic and $1,000 for the brand name.
Utilizing the kidney drug isn't new information per say. Since 2006, researchers suggested it could slow down aging, and in 2009, the drug expanded the lifespan of mice. However, biohackers aere catching on and propelling the drug into the mainstream.
In 2023, the journal Experimental Gerontology claims that the drug is the only one that has consistently demonstrated longevity in mammals.
Longevity doesn't come without risks
Rapamycin's FDA label says that users may be susceptible to infection, high blood pressure, higher cholesterol levels, mouth ulcers, and loss of kidney function. However, these risks were linked to research on kidney transplant patients taking a much more frequent dosage.
Complications of taking rapamycin include:
More serious side effects include:
- Blood clotting
Scientists who study aging say that taking a weekly rather than a daily dose can improve immune response and won't contribute to serious side effects.
In 2022, Cambrian Bio, a biotech company, announced its licensing deal with Novartis AG, a Swiss pharmaceutical company that will be focused on creating longevity benefits with a compound similar to rapamycin — without the laundry list of side effects.
There is still more research to be done, however. Ageless Rx, a telemedicine company for longevity drugs, is studying rapamycin's effects on visceral fat — which increases aging — in 150 participants.
Overall, rapamycin isn't a cure-all drug. In addition to a healthy lifestyle and nutritious diet, the drug can act as a supplement for those seeking anti-aging benefits.
- FDA. Drug Approval Package
- ELife. Transient rapamycin treatment can increase lifespan and healthspan in middle-aged mice.
- Nature Aging. Long-lasting geroprotection from brief rapamycin treatment in early adulthood by persistently increased intestinal autophagy
- Cell Cycle. Aging and Immortality: Quasi-Programmed Senescence and Its Pharmacologic Inhibition
- GeroScience Effects of rapamycin on aging and age-related diseases—past and future
Show all references
- Experimental Gerontology. Rapamycin, the only drug that has been consistently demonstrated to increase mammalian longevity. An update
- FEBS Letters. mTOR regulation of autophagy
- Aging. Rapamycin for aging skin