First successful use of drugs to extend lifespan

August 30, 2000

(NOVATO, CA and Bedford, MA) -- In a collaborative effort, scientists have for the first time successfully increased normal life span in the nematode worm C. elegans through the use of drugs that augment the organism's natural antioxidant systems. As reported in the September 1, 2000 issue of Science, it appears that oxidative stress is a major determinant of life span and that it can be counteracted by pharmacological intervention.

The findings are the result of a research collaboration, initiated by Dr. Simon Melov of the Buck Institute (Novato, CA), including Dr. Gordon Lithgow and colleagues of the University of Manchester (Manchester, UK), Dr. Doug Wallace of Emory University (Atlanta, GA) and Drs. Susan Doctrow and Bernard Malfroy of Eukarion Inc., (Bedford, MA).

The experiments involved groups of adult nematodes that were either untreated or treated with synthetic catalytic scavengers, or SCSs. These drugs are synthetic versions of superoxide dismutase and catalase, naturally occurring enzymes involved in the control of oxidative stress. The team of researchers found that treatment of adult wild-type nematodes with synthetic superoxide dismutase/catalase mimetics had mean life spans that were on average, approximately 50% longer than the untreated nematodes. Furthermore, in a mutant nematode strain with a shortened life span linked to oxidative stress, an early death was prevented and life span normalized through treatment with the drugs. Results suggest that endogenous oxidative stress is a major determinant of the rate of aging.

Nematodes have been used for many years to study biological processes relevant to other species including humans.

"These results are the first real indication we have had that aging is a condition that can be treated through appropriate drug therapy," said Dr. Melov, a founding faculty member of the Buck Institute, who initiated the pilot studies. "Further studies on higher organisms in the near future will allow us to answer whether or not we have to reconsider aging as an inevitability."

"We have been working on our proprietary synthetic catalytic scavenger (SCS) compounds for several years," said Dr. Bernard Malfroy, chief executive of Eukarion. "To date, they have been successfully used in models of neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. This work on nematode life span further strengthens our belief that SCSs have tremendous potential as therapeutics. Our priority now is to move these compounds toward clinical trials."

The Buck Institute and Eukarion, Inc. will continue to work together to further investigate the role of SCSs in the aging process. This collaboration, between an independent research institute and a biopharmaceutical company is a new trend for research and beneficial to the general public in that it brings together basic and applied research to advance innovative products toward clinical development.
Dedicated entirely to biomedical research on aging and age-associated diseases, the Buck Institute is the only institute of its kind in the United States, and only one of three in the world. Located 20 miles north of San Francisco, its mission is to extend the healthy, productive years of life through basic research. Since its opening in July of 1999, the Buck Institute has brought together a multi-disciplinary group of researchers, utilizing state-of-the-art technologies and resources, to focus on the complex challenge of discovering why we develop diseases as we age and developing therapeutics to prevent these debilitating conditions. The Buck Institute is a non-profit, independent organization and seeks funding from government, foundation, corporate, and other sources to accomplish its mission. For further information visit the web site at

Eukarion, Inc. is a privately held biopharmaceutical company located in Bedford, MA developing small molecule drugs for the treatment of degenerative and age-related disorders. The company's principal focus is on its patented synthetic catalytic scavenger (SCS) technology for the treatment of conditions related to oxidative stress. Eukarion holds five U.S. patents for its SCS technology and has been awarded over $2 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health to further its research and development goals. For more information, visit the web site at

Note: B-roll and photographs available upon request.

Melov, Simon, Ravencraft, Joanne, Malik Sarwatt, Gill, Matt S., Walker, David W., Clayton, Peter E., Wallace, Douglas C., Malfroy, Bernard, Doctrow, Susan R., and Lithgow, Gordon J. (2000). Extension of life span with Superoxide Dismutase/Catalase Mimetics. Science, September 1, 2000.

Add'l contacts: Eukarion, Inc.
Bernard Malfroy, Ph.D.,
Janet Smart, Ph.D.,
(781) 275 0424

Buck Institute for Research on Aging

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