Drug Reverses ‘Accelerated Aging’ in Human Cells


Age reducer: Cells taken from patients with a rapid aging disease were treated with the drug rapamycin. In the top image, a toxic protein called progerin (green) is spread evenly throughout the cells. In the treated cells at bottom, the protein was concentrated and removed much more effectively.     Credit: Science/AAAS




The discovery has implications for the treatment of several diseases—as well as normal aging in healthy people




MIT Technology Review, June/July 2011, by Kenrick Vezina  —  The drug rapamycin has been found to reverse the effects of Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, a fatal genetic disease that resembles rapid aging, in cells taken from patients with the disease. Rapamycin, an immunosuppressant drug used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, has already been shown to extend life span in healthy mice. Researchers hope the findings will provide new insight into treating progeria as well as other age-related diseases.

Skin cells from patients with progeria show a slew of defects: deformities in their membranes, decreased growth, and early death. Kan Cao, an associate professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland, and her colleagues found that rapamycin could reverse these defects by enhancing the cells’ ability to degrade the protein progerin, which accumulates in abnormal amounts in progeria patients. The study was published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

It’s not yet clear whether the drug will have similar effects on animals or patients. But progeria researchers are planning a clinical trial of rapamycin. No treatments currently exist for the disease, which is typically fatal by age 12. Children with progeria have health issues typically associated with old age, including balding, hardened skin, pain in joints, hip dislocations, and heart disease.

Researchers say the findings could be relevant beyond this rare genetic disease. Although accumulation of progerin is associated with progeria, the protein also accumulates in small amounts in normal cells, and may be partially responsible for the aging process.

Some age-related diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, also result in defects in the cells’ “trash-removal” system, says Dimitri Krainc, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and one of the authors of the paper. In fact, previous research has shown that the failure of cellular maintenance is a key component of aging. “With normal aging … you start accumulating by-products of normal cell functions,” explains Krainc. Rapamycin may be able to help clean up other toxic proteins as well, though this study only looked at its effects on progerin.


“I would hope that the study increases the search for molecules to replace rapamycin,” which don’t have the immunosuppressant side effects, says David Sinclair, director of the Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Biological Mechanisms of Aging at Harvard Medical School. Such alternatives could be a major step forward in the fight against aging, says Sinclair, who was not involved in the current study.

Eli Lilly & Co. beautiful corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana



GoogleNews.com, BloombergNews.com, July 5, 2011  —  INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co. said Tuesday it will make a multimillion-dollar investment in its biotechnology business to help develop multispecific therapies, which involve one medicine essentially providing the benefit of two.

Spokeswoman Judy Kay Moore declined to provide more detail on the investment total. She said the potential treatments will focus on chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases where one drug usually isn’t enough.

With multispecific therapies, more than one drug “mechanism of action” is combined with molecular biology into a single drug molecule, Lilly said. This is different from combination therapies, which usually involve different drugs administered separately to hit two or more targets that contribute to the disease.

The Indianapolis company is developing several potential multispecific therapies but has yet to start human testing on them. It will hire more biochemists and biologists to support this work.

Biotechnology drugs are developed from living cells instead of chemical compounds and are usually injectable medicines rather than pills. Some can be tailored more to a specific disease than traditional drugs.

Lilly shares climbed 26 cents to $37.09 in Tuesday morning trading.



Listen to Eli Lily’s smart and articulate CEO, John Lechleiter, speak about the future of Lily, of immigrant issues and of chances for positive growth and how it will take place.

John Lechleiter, chairman and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly & Co., talks about the company’s revenue outlook as it faces the patent expiration of drugs including its biggest-selling medicine Zyprexa. Lechleiter speaks with Shannon Pettypiece on Bloomberg Television’s “InsideTrack.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Last week, we met two amazing Eli Lily executives for dinner in the Big Apple and for provocative conversation and discussions about our mutual interests in the future.  The talk over delicious seafood and spectacular wine, was nothing but positive with much hope for the future of pharmaceuticals and for Eli Lily and Target Health Inc., in particular.

Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


Eli Lilly & Co, corporate headquarters in Indiana

Mobile Health Apps That Share


A project aims to collect data from apps, potentially enabling new kinds of health research.




A set of tools for building cell-phone apps that collect health-related information aims to change the way health information is stored, shared, and used




MIT Technology Review, June/July 2011, by Katherine Gammon  —  The Open mHealth project, developed at UCLA and UCSF, provides technology for  health apps that transmit a variety of data to the project’s central data warehouse. This data can include information entered by users and also such things as smart-phone GPS- and accelerometer-tracking information. One pilot project, for instance, is studying the diet, stress, movement, and exercise patterns of overweight new mothers. Users have control over what data is captured and get to choose with whom it is shared. Hospitals, health-care providers, and startup companies could design additional apps to draw on the data.

Mobile phones are increasingly used to track illness and promote wellness, but for the most part, this occurs by way of a patchwork of incompatible applications doing different jobs, says Deborah Estrin, professor of computer science, director of the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a researcher on Open mHealth. “Right now, most of the mobile health applications send data back to a proprietary website which could sell the information back to you or to others.”

Estrin says sharing mobile health data could help advance medical research: “When people share components of the infrastructure, there is more rapid innovation than when people are working separately to reinvent the wheel.”

She gives the example of inviting patients prescribed antidepressants to take part in a research study via a phone app. This would track side effects and levels of depression and activity, and send the information to a physician to review before forwarding it to the study. If only one out of every 250 U.S. patients for whom antidepressants have been prescribed took part, the study would still include more than 100,000 subjects.

The Open mHealth project has already launched five apps and related pilot studies. The one for overweight new mothers collects GPS and accelerometer data from their smart phones, together with information users enter about their diet and stress levels. “We actually redesigned this app after we heard from some of the new moms,” says Estrin. “We added a stress button on the phone—when a participant is feeling stressed, she taps the button and it registers her time and location.”

To protect users’ privacy, the Open mHealth project developed a feature called the personal data vault, which holds the data being collected and analyzed. The user can choose to delete things from the data vault or set filters so the phone does not monitor behavior during certain times of the day.

It should be possible for health-care organizations to use the Open mHealth infrastructure and add functions on top of it to analyze the data and send it out to third parties, such as a clinician, says Dr. Michael Swiernik, director of medical informatics at the University of California, Los Angeles, who also works on the project. Swiernik says that ultimately such data might be integrated into users’ electronic medical records.

According to some experts, the project may prove easier to implement outside the United States. “The success of Open mHealth hinges on its ability to integrate with other software and hardware such as point-of-care devices and a back-end electronic medical record,” says Leo Anthony Celi, a physician and researcher at MIT who is creating open-source mobile medical protocols for developing countries. “In the U.S., a vast majority of this software and hardware is proprietary.”