CHICAGO New compounds that act like the red
wine ingredient resveratrol may offer a new formula for type 2
diabetes drugs and other age-related diseases, researchers at
U.S. drug maker Sirtris Pharmaceuticals said on Wednesday.
"The excitement here is that we're not talking about red
wine anymore. We're talking about real drugs," said David
Sinclair, an associate professor of pathology at Harvard
Medical School and a co-founder of Cambridge,
"This is the first time that real drugs have been designed
to go after diseases through the genes that control aging,"
said Sinclair, whose research appears in the journal Nature.
"One of the drawbacks of resveratrol is the doses need to
be large. Now this paper says you can reduce it into a little
pill taken once a day," he said in a telephone interview.
Sinclair and researchers at Sirtris have been looking for
drug compounds that mimic the effects of resveratrol, the
chemical in red wine that has been shown in several studies to
prolong the life of mice and reduce the advance of age-related
They tested some 500,000 molecules to isolate a handful
that would have the same effect as resveratrol on the seven
genes called sirtuins that have been found in several studies
to control the aging process.
Their latest research shows these experimental drug
compounds -- which are 1,000 times more potent than resveratrol
-- helped reverse diabetes symptoms and reduce insulin
sensitivity in two different studies in diabetic mice and one
"When you see it work in those three models, you have
increased confidence that it will have a universal effect on
organisms," Sinclair said.
He said that is enough to begin human testing, which the
company plans for the first half of 2008.
"The chances of success in humans is estimated at 80 to 90
percent. We'll know next year," he said, depending on when the
company gets the go-ahead from the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration to start clinical trials.
The discovery may have implications well beyond diabetes
drugs, which is itself a $19 billion global market.
"We will make a drug to treat one disease, but it will, as
an added bonus, protect you against most of the other diseases
of the Western world."
Those age-related diseases could include cancer, heart
disease and Alzheimer's, he said.
While Sinclair and company executives have high hopes for
the compounds, they acknowledge that many compounds that hold
great promise in animals fail to work in humans, either because
they are toxic or because they do not work.
Type 2 diabetes, the kind that comes from too little
exercise and a poor diet, accounts for about 90 percent of the
180 million cases of diabetes around the world, according to
the World Health Organization.
(Editing by Eric Beech)