Scientists study enzymes as keys to longer lives
By Frank Quaratiello
Friday, September 21, 2007 - Added 9h ago

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Scientists at Cambridge-based Sirtris Pharmaceuticals and Harvard University are shedding more light on new ways to fight aging, research they say could lead to longer, healthier life.

The scientists, including Sirtris co-founder David Sinclair, reported in the journal Cell details of how a calorie-restrictive diet activates key enzymes that protect cells in lab animals.

The study focused on a group of enzymes, known as sirtuins, which provide a key link between metabolism and lifespan. It provided more evidence for the idea that a low-calorie diet - or a pill that would mimic its effects - activates these life-extending enzymes. Sirtris already has a drug - a concentrated form of resveratrol, which is found in red wine. The drug, called SRT501, now in clinical trials, activates the first of the human body’s seven sirtuins.Yesterday’s discovery establishes a link between activating two other sirtuins, SIRT3 and SIRT4, and protecting cells from death and damage.

“We’ve reason to believe now that these two genes may be potential drug targets for diseases associated with aging,” said Sinclair, who is an associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School.

Christoph Westphal, Sirtris’ chief executive officer, agreed, “These findings broaden the potential of Sirtris’ drug discovery platform and intellectual property focused on sirtuin modulators to treat a number of diseases of aging such as metabolic, mitochrondrial, inflammatory and neurological disorders, and cancer.”

Westphal said Sirtris has not yet developed a drug to activate SIRT3 and SIRT4, but he added that results from human clinical trials of SRT501 should be available by the end of the year. Still, the company is several years from having a drug ready for the market.

That’s too bad, said Westphal, who counts Red Sox [team stats] principal owner John Henry among the company’s major investors.

“We need to get the Red Sox on SIRT3 activators,” Westphal joked.