Could an anti-viral drug used to treat age be used to extend the human lifespan?
Medical researchers have recently revealed that antiretroviral therapy (ART) partially reversed the accelerated aging found in persons living with HIV.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to assess changes in biomarkers of epigenetic aging after ART initiation in a population of participants with HIV enrolled in a clinical trial,” declared Andrés Esteban-Cantos, MSc, and colleagues of the Europe-based HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Research Group and the NEAT (European AIDS Treatment Network) and ANRS (French Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis).
Four biomarkers of epigenetic aging were analyzed for each of the participants at baseline before commencing ART in the infected groups and after 96 weeks of treatment or that interval for controls: Horvath’s clock, Hannum’s clock, GrimAge, and PhenoAge. The investigators describe these biomarkers of aging as “epigenetic clocks, mathematical algorithms that predict epigenetic age as a surrogate of biological age based on detectable changes in DNA known to occur with aging.
Accelerated aging is one of the biological impacts of infection with HIV. This condition is referred to as epigenetic age acceleration (EAA). The scientist took baseline EAA measurements of the patients in the study based on the epigenic aging measurements mentioned. After 96 weeks on ART, patients showed remarkably slower aging based on the markers.
“These findings support that ART initiation partly reverses HIV-induced EAA, and is one of the first examples, to our knowledge, of how epigenetic clocks can capture the initial beneficial effect of a therapeutic intervention that significantly improves survival,” Esteban-Cantos and colleagues report.
The results suggest also suggest that altered epigenetics may help explain why even successfully treated HIV-infected adults are at an increased risk for the early development of many diseases more commonly associated with aging.
A previous study found that a generic HIV drug known as Lamivudine could significantly reverse aging in mice. However, this European study published in April in The Lancet was the first to demonstrate and analyze the effect on humans.
The scientists would not say directly if slowing accelerated aging in HIV patients could necessarily mean that ART could have a similar effect on slowing normal aging in non-HIV infected individuals, but it raises that intriguing question and they feel that it bears further investigation.