"Longevity gene" used to cure Alzheimer's in mice

A group of biologists at MIT say they have nailed down solid evidence from an animal study that the SIRT1 pathway can be used to successfully treat Alzheimer's.

In a study of mice modeled to suffer from Alzheimer's while producing higher levels of sirtuin one, the scientists found that the rodents retained both memory and learning abilities, warding off the disease.

"This is the first demonstration that the SIRT1 pathway can mitigate Alzheimer's," Leonard Guarente, a biologist at MIT, tells the Wall Street Journal. And mice engineered without SIRT1 quickly succumbed to the disease. When a certain protein is broken into fragments, it creates amyloid plaques that are a biomarker of Alzheimer's. But it's believed that sirtuin one can break the fragments into harmless particles, helping to avert the disease, which strikes one in three people who reach the age of 80.

The SIRT1 gene has been a focus for antiaging researchers for years. Sometimes called the "longevity gene," animal studies have indicated that resveratrol, which is contained in red wine, can trigger activity in the gene and extend lives. GSK's subsidiary Sirtris is now working on creating new therapeutics based on synthetic sirtuins, but company researchers face some high hurdles. Guarente cochairs Sirtris's scientific advisory board.

- read the article from the Wall Street Journal
- here's the story from the Boston Globe