New drug has surprising anti-ageing effect

Scientists at the Salk Institute in California discovered that when mice were treated with the drug, called J147, it made them look younger. An elixir of youth may be on the horizon after an experimental Alzheimer’s drug had a surprise side-effect of making old mice ‘young’.

The new medicine was so successful at rolling back the years in lab rodents that human trials are already being planned for next year. Scientists at the Salk Institute in California made the discovery after targeting their research on Alzheimer’s biggest risk factor – old age.

When mice were treated with the drug, called J147, it boosted memory and cognition and made blood vessels in the brain healthier.

It even improved their physical appearance – making them look younger.

Scientists never expected the therapy to slow the clock on key aspects of ageing but hailed them a “welcome benefit” if the drug turns out to be safe for use by Alzheimer’s patients.

Dr Antonio Currais of the Salk Institute said: “We did not predict we would see this sort of anti ageing effect, but J147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number of physiological parameters.”

Pills on counter
Medicine: Tests are being done to see if the drug is safe to use on humans (Image: Getty)

They tested three groups of a mice – one young, a second old and the third old but fed J147 as they aged.

The team then measured how every gene in the brain reacted as the mice – a breed that ages rapidly – got older.

They found that the old mice that received J147 performed better on memory and other tests for cognition and also displayed more robust motor movements.

The mice treated with J147 also had fewer signs of Alzheimer’s.

Remarkably, the way the gene expression and metabolism of those older mice treated with J147 was very similar to those of the young mice.

Another notable effect was that J147 prevented the leakage of blood from the microvessels in the brains of old mice.

Dr Currais said: “Damaged blood vessels are a common feature of aging in general, and in Alzheimer’s, it is frequently much worse.”


The scientists had already found J147 could prevent and even reverse memory loss in mice that have a version of the inherited form of Alzheimer’s.

But this form of the disease comprises only about one percent of cases with advancing years the primary risk factor for everybody else.

An estimated 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK, two thirds of whom have Alzheimer’s.