Dr. Chong He studied in China, obtaining a Bachelor's degree in both biology and chemistry. She later went on to complete her Phd in drug design, with the goal of reducing the risks of inflammatory drugs. Dr. Chong He has been working for the Buck Institute of Age Research for a total of 4 years and has made some incredible conclusions based on her research with yeast.
Yeast among many other animals are used as models in research. Why yeast? Well, yeast are unicellular eukaryotic organisms that live for about 25-26 cell divisions, each 1-1 ½ hours long. Yeast is also selected due to its small genome. Lastly as stated in Dr, Chong He’s article, “ a large portion of genes in yeast have been shown to have similar genes in higher eukaryotes that have been implicated in aging related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington’s disease and cancer.” This similarity led to the scientists collaborating on this research project to as the question, if any drugs could be found that would change the cell cycle properties of yeast to make them have live longer.
The research began by selecting 14 FDA approved drugs that included ibuprofen. The research that began in 2013 finally gave them results. The yeast was injected with the same concentration of ibuprofen as humans, 200mg. “Ibuprofen extends replicative lifespan by about 17% in yeast.” The yeast cells that had been treated with ibuprofen divided a bit over 30 times compared to their normal lifespan of 25-26 divisions. The result of having a longer lifespan was also seen in the worms and the fruit flies.
How does ibuprofen extend lifespan? Ibuprofen extends longevity of yeast by preventing the amino acid tryptophan from entering the cell’s plasma membrane. Ibuprofen also makes cells divide slower, therefore postponing death. This led more research projects that included the drug Rapamycin, found in Chile and used to suppress the immune system. This drug was tested in mice and was found to extend lifespans as well. This drug was also tested on dogs, which resulted in an improved heart rate and function. Along with this the project Antagonistic Pleiotropy proposed a thought that perhaps a gene or hormone was necessary when developing but the case of age once a person reached an older age. Dr. Cynthia Kenyon of UCSF experimented with worms and discovered that worms that didn’t have a growth hormone present has a longer life. Her results brought the idea that maybe the growth hormones are unnecessary once a person reaches their senior years.
The key to a longer and healthier lifespan has been and will continue to be a nutritious diet and exercise. Although conclusions have been drawn that ibuprofen extends lifespans, in yeast, there is still a large amount of research necessary to prove this in humans. The next step would be testing on HeLa cells, a topic being studied by the majority of sophomores at Piner, to conclude that ibuprofen is indeed an anti-aging mechanism.
By: Maria Guzman