A compound called nicotinamide mono nucleotide (NMN) has been shown to slow down the ageing process and extend the lifespans of mice. We're about to find out if it does the same thing to humans. Credit: Benjamin Button
A planned clinical trial devised by researchers from Washington University in St Louis and Keio University in Japan is set to test the effectiveness and safety of the compound. Starting next month, about 10 healthy people will be administered NMN to see if can improve bodily function and stave off the effects of ageing. Should it work, it would become the first bona fide anti-ageing intervention available on the market.
Chemical structure of NMN (image: Edgar181)
NMN is an organic molecule, or nucleotide, found in a variety of nutritional sources, including milk. Previous studies have shown that it's instrumental in slowing down the ageing process, and it does so by activating sirtuin in the body — a class of proteins whose functions get weaker as the body ages.
Research by Shinichiro Imai of Washington University revealed that NMN activates the gene responsible for sirtuin. In one experiment, mice fed a steady diet of NMN experienced improvements to age-related declines in metabolism and eyesight. In other experiments, NMN improved their glucose intolerance and lipid profiles. For mice, it's like an elixir of life, but we still have no idea if it will work the same way in humans.
Scientists have good reason to believe it won't. Mice studies, particularly those involving ageing, don't translate well to humans. It's unlikely that NMN will work as profoundly on humans as it does on mice — a tiny creature with a remarkably "plastic" lifespan.
That said, NMN could have a positive effect on human physiology, and a measurable one at that. Even if the effects aren't as dramatic on humans as they are on mice, this compound could still be used to boost human health.