Rapamycin: Biological Sex Influences Anti-Aging Drug’s Efficacy

Research led by scientists from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing and the University College London (UCL) hints that men and women age differently and also respond in different ways to anti-aging drugs.



When it comes to aging, no gender has a complete advantage. Males seem to do better in certain regards while females also do in some other aspects.

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Women tend to have a notably longer lifespan, compared to men. However, men appear to enjoy more healthy aging and suffer less from age-related disorders and unpleasant drug reactions than women.

The drug rapamycin is regarded by many as the most promising at present for combating aging. In this study that was reported in the journal Nature Aging, researchers found that it only extended the lifespan of female fruit flies.

This suggests that biological sex is a critical factor in how effective an anti-aging drug turns out to be, inferred the researchers.

Extending lifespan

Dr. Yu-Xuan Lu, one of the study’s lead authors, disclosed that the research team’s long-term goal was to help men have longer lifespans similar to those of women and to make the latter live as healthy as their male counterparts in older years.

However, it is critical to first figure out the factors that account for the differences in lifespan and healthy aging.

Researchers in this study administered rapamycin to male and female fruit flies so that could examine how the drug affects the two sexes and work out the underlying mechanism.

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Rapamycin is an immune regulator and cell growth blocker that is commonly used in the treatment of people with cancer. The drug is also used after organ transplantation procedures. Scientists say it has impressive anti-aging potential as well, with an increasing number of studies probing its use for this purpose.

After the administration of rapamycin to the fruit flies, the research team found that the drug increased lifespan and reduced age-related intestinal disorders. However, these benefits were observed only in females to suggest that biological sex was a factor in efficacy.

The role of autophagy

The scientists linked the improved health that they observed in females to autophagy, a process through which damaged or worn-out cell parts are eliminated from the body. Rapamycin treatment enhanced autophagy activity in the intestinal cells of female mice to promote a healthier life.

By contrast, the anti-aging drug did not produce a similar effect in males. These appeared to already have elevated basal autophagy activity which rapamycin could not raise further, according to the researchers.

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“Previous studies found that females had greater responses to rapamycin on lifespan extension than did males in mice, we now uncover an underlying mechanism of these differences using flies,” said Yu-Xuan Lu.

The study authors stated that the discovery of the mechanism or processes that influence therapeutic responses could aid in making personalized treatments.


Sexual identity of enterocytes regulates autophagy to determine intestinal health, lifespan and responses to rapamycin



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