Sirtris Explores Compounds to Combat Degenerative Disease and Diseases of Aging

At a conference on aging last week, Sirtris Pharmaceuticals emerged as the heavyweight of interest. The company is developing drugs that mimic resveratrol, which has been found to activate proteins called sirtuins. Activation of sirtuins is thought to help the body ride out famines. Sirtris’ researchers think that drugs that activate sirtuins mimic this process, strengthening the body’s resistance to the diseases of aging. The company has developed thousands of small chemical compounds that are far more potent than resveratrol and so can be given in smaller doses. In mice, sirtuin activators are effective against lung and colon cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, said David Sinclair, a Harvard Medical School researcher and co-founder of Sirtris. The drugs reduce inflammation, and if they have the same effects in people, could help combat many neurodegenerative diseases.

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