Researchers discovered that the drug rilmenidine can increase life expectancy and halt the ageing process. The findings, published in Aging Cell, reveal that treating animals with rilmenidine, a drug currently used to treat hypertension, at young and elderly ages enhances lifespan and improves health indices, mirroring the effects of calorie restriction. They also show that the I1-imidazoline receptor nish-1 mediates the healthspan and lifespan effects of rilmenidine administration in the roundworm C. elegans, indicating this receptor as a potential longevity target.
Unlike other medications previously evaluated for this purpose by the researchers, the frequently prescribed, oral antihypertensive rilmenidine offers the potential for future human translatability due to uncommon and non-severe adverse effects. To date, the most effective anti-aging intervention, enhancing longevity across animals, has been a calorie restriction diet. However, human studies of calorie restriction have had inconsistent outcomes and adverse effects, implying that developing drugs like rilmenidine that can replicate the benefits of caloric restriction is the most logical anti-aging technique.
Professor Joao Pedro Magalhaes, who led the research whilst at the University of Liverpool and is now based at the University of Birmingham, said: “With a global ageing population, the benefits of delaying ageing, even if slightly, are immense. Repurposing drugs capable of extending lifespan and healthspan has a huge untapped potential in translational geroscience. For the first time, we have been able to show in animals that rilmenidine can increase lifespan. We are now keen to explore if rilmenidine may have other clinical applications.”