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Keywords:

  • Affymetrix;
  • caloric restriction;
  • CR mimetic;
  • drug discovery;
  • longevity

Summary

A number of lines of evidence, including nonhuman primate and human studies, suggest that regulatory pathways similar to those invoked by caloric restriction (CR) may be involved in determining human longevity. Thus, pharmaceuticals capable of mimicking the molecular mechanisms of life- and health-span extension by CR (CR mimetics) may have application to human health. CR acts rapidly, even in late adulthood, to begin to extend life- and health-span in mice. We have linked these effects with rapid changes in the levels of specific gene transcripts in the liver and the heart. Our results are consistent with the rapid effects of caloric intake on the lifespan and/or biochemistry and physiology of Drosophila, rodents, rhesus macaques and humans. To test the hypothesis that existing pharmaceuticals can mimic the physiologic effects of CR, we evaluated the effectiveness of glucoregulatory drugs and putative cancer chemopreventatives in reproducing the hepatic gene-expression profiles produced by long-term CR (LTCR). We found that 8 weeks of metformin treatment was superior to 8 weeks of CR at reproducing the specific changes in transcript levels produced by LTCR. Consistent with these results, metformin reduces cancer incidence in diabetic humans and ameliorates the onset and severity of metabolic syndrome. Metformin extends the mean and maximum lifespans of female transgenic HER-2/neu mice by 8% and 13.1% in comparison with control mice. Phenformin, a close chemical relative of metformin, extends lifespan and reduces tumor incidence in C3H mice. These results indicate that gene-expression biomarkers can be used to identify promising candidate CR mimetics.