Light on Population Problems? University of Tokyo Research Team Uncovers “Possibility of Treating Aging by Administering Optivo.” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Light on Population Problems? University of Tokyo Research Team Uncovers “Possibility of Treating Aging by Administering Optivo.”

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE
In ’21, mice treated with a substance called “GLS1 inhibitor” (right), which renders senescent cells unsustainable, were compared with mice that were not treated. This experiment led to the discovery of a new fact in ’22. The mouse on the right, in which aged cells were removed, has a shiny coat and looks younger (composite image provided by Prof. Makoto Nakanishi).

What Causes Aging?

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research of the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare released at the end of April a “Future Population Projection” showing that the population is expected to decline to 87 million in 2070, with the number of people aged 65 and over approaching 40%. The report simultaneously reported the economic downturn, difficulties in securing a labor force, and other uncertainties about the future. However, there is a team that is continuing research that may dispel such gloomy prospects.

We are working to understand the aging process and how we can stop it. If a drug that prevents aging were to make it possible for a 65-year-old and a 30-year-old to maintain the same performance, physically and mentally, without any change, it would solve the labor shortage, nursing care, and medical cost problems in one fell swoop.

Professor Makoto Nakanishi of the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Tokyo says so.

One of the causes of aging is thought to be the accumulation of senescent cells, cells that have stopped dividing and are no longer needed by the body, but which survive like zombies without being eliminated by the immune system and accumulate in the body.

It has long been known that senescent cells cause deterioration of body functions and various symptoms, and that eliminating senescent cells can prevent and ameliorate the onset of aging and age-related diseases. However, the detailed mechanisms of the aging cells, such as where they are located in the body and what their properties are, remained unknown.

At that time, a research team formed by Professor Nakanishi and Professor Yoshikazu Jomura (then working at the institute as an assistant professor), who was one of the aces of the institute, developed a “mouse” that accelerated the research on aging. The mice, created in 2020, have been provided to more than 40 research institutes around the world and have become an indispensable part of aging research.

The existence of these mice has also made it possible to publish new results. In November 2010, the team announced that when a substance called “anti-PD-1 antibody,” which is known as a special medicine for cancer, was administered to mice, aging cells were removed from their bodies, and the mice’s motor functions were rejuvenated.

Professor Yoshikazu Jomura currently continues his research at Kanazawa University. He was an ace in Professor Nakanishi’s research team.

So, what we are wondering is whether there is a possibility that the results of this research can be applied to humans. Basically, since antibodies have different reactivity in different species, if humans are to benefit from the effects of eliminating senescent cells, as in the case of the mice in this study, the “Opdivo,” an “anti-PD-1” antibody against human PD-1, would be used. Opdivo is a well-known drug that is already in clinical use as a specific cancer treatment.

When, exactly, will we be able to take Opdivo as a “rejuvenation drug”? Professor Shiomura stated, “Even if Opdivo is proven to be effective in humans, it will not be approved as a drug for rejuvenation,” and continued, “It will not be approved as a drug for rejuvenation, but as a drug for aging.

“If it were to be used not as a drug for rejuvenation, but as a drug for diseases that are thought to be related to aging cells and for which there is no cure, then its practical application would be possible.

Mice experimenting with hanging time. The young mice can stay on the pole for up to 200 seconds, but the old mice can only hang for 30 seconds (image courtesy of Prof. Makoto Nakanishi).

Healthy elderly people may drastically increase, just like the greatly rejuvenated mice.

In Japan, drugs are currently approved only for the treatment of diseases and alleviation of symptoms. Since “aging” is still considered “just a natural phenomenon” and not recognized as a disease, it is not taken as a drug for rejuvenation.

In addition to Opdivo, other compounds have been discovered that eliminate aging cells, but Opdivo is already in practical use as a treatment for cancer, and we know what side effects it may have. Therefore, if the day comes when “aging” is considered a “disease,” there is still room for future approval of Opdivo with the shortest and fewest number of clinical trials compared to other drugs.

In Japan, where the population is aging rapidly, the percentage of people with diseases that could be improved by “removal of aging cells” is quite high.

For example, 13.3 million people suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD) caused by aging kidneys, 7 million people suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) caused by aging lungs, and 1 to 2 million people suffer from nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) caused by inflammation of accumulated aging cells, Dementia, which is now being shown to be related to aging cells, affects 6.02 million people, and the number of people suffering from the four major diseases alone is more than 28 million, with the number increasing every year. Furthermore, there is no cure or medicine that has been developed for any of these diseases.

As of November 2022, the population of Japan was 122,231,000. If these people could be given Opdivo preferentially as a preventive or therapeutic drug, not only would the number of sick people decrease, but the number of healthy elderly people would also increase dramatically, just as mice become much younger. This is because Opdivo targets not only localized treatment, but also the aging cells that have accumulated throughout the body. Not only could the disease be cured, but it could also rejuvenate the bodily functions of those over the age of 65 who take the drug as a preventative measure against the disease.

The more research that is conducted on the removal of aging cells, the more it seems possible that mankind may soon be able to attain the forbidden fruit of immortality. ……

The maximum lifespan of a human being is approximately 120 years. This seems to be determined by the human species. Therefore, our goal is a healthy and long-lived society. A society in which it is natural for everyone to live healthily until the day their life expectancy ends,” said Professor Nakanishi.

Recently, it has become clear that the accumulation of aging cells is related to the fact that elderly people and people with underlying diseases such as diabetes are more likely to become seriously ill from the new type of coronavirus. If aging is viewed not as “just a natural phenomenon” but as a treatable “disease,” the very category of “elderly” that currently plagues Japan must cease to exist.

Video] Mice without aging cells removed

Video] Mice with senescent cells removed

Professor Makoto Nakanishi, Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo
  • Interview and text Hiromi Kihara

Photo Gallery4 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles