A common skin care ingredient used in anti-ageing creams can mimic the life-extending effect of a calorie restriction diet, a new study has found.
Calorie restriction, a reduction in calorie intake without malnutrition, has been found to slow down the ageing process in several animal models from worms to mammals, and developing drugs that can reproduce this effect, without the side effects, could have widespread human applications.
Using complex genetic data analysis and testing, scientists at University of Liverpool in UK have shown for the first time that allantoin, which is found in botanical extracts of the comfrey plant and is an ingredient of many anti-ageing creams, can mimic the effect of calorie restriction and increase lifespan in worms by more than 20 per cent.
"Calorie restriction has been shown to have health benefits in humans and, while more work is necessary, our findings could potentially result in human therapies for age-related diseases," said Joao Pedro de Magalhaes, from the University's Institute of Integrative Biology, who led the study.
To identify potential calorie restriction mimetic compounds, the team used existing molecular signatures from human cells treated with a variety of small-molecule drugs.
Using pattern-matching algorithms to make connections between drug compounds and calorie restriction effects, eleven potential compounds were identified. Five of these were then tested in nematode worms.
The researchers found that worms treated with allantoin, rapamycin, trichostatin A and LY-294002 not only lived longer, but also stayed healthier longer.
Additionally, when the same compounds were tested in mutant worms they extended lifespan in a way expected from calorie restriction.
Further molecular analysis of allantoin suggests it acts by a different mechanism from rapamycin, a well-known longevity drug.
"Testing anti-ageing interventions in humans is not practical, so developing computational methods to predict longevity drugs is of great use," said Shaun Calvert, PhD student at University of Liverpool.
"We have shown so far that our compounds work in worms, but studies in mammalian models are now necessary," Mr Calvert said.