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expert reaction to ibuprofen and longevity in yeast, nematode worms and fruit flies

Researchers publishing in the journal PLOS Genetics have reported the use of ibuprofen to expand the lifespan of three model organisms: yeast, nematode worms, and fruit flies. They also note changes in cell-cycle, as well as size.


Dr David J Clancy, Lecturer researching genetics and biology of ageing, Lancaster University, said:

“Work by Michael Polymenis and colleagues, published in Public Library of Science – Genetics, elegantly demonstrates a link between the commonly used anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen, metabolism of the amino acid tryptophan, and lifespan in the model organisms yeast and nematode worms. Part of this effect may be related to slowing of the cell cycle resulting in slower early development and growth.

“Although they did test the drug in the fruit fly Drosophila and observed lifespan increase, the result needs to be repeated using better controls and testing for the effect on tryptophan metabolism. Once that is confirmed, tests in mice should be done.

“Unfortunately the size of genetic- or drug-induced lifespan extension nearly always seems to diminish substantially or disappear as we progress up the scale of complexity in model organisms, from the single-celled yeasts to nematode worms with just below 959 cells, to a fruit fly with >100,000 cells in its nervous system alone, to a mouse, with 71 million neurons.

“The question is whether this finding might be relevant to lifespan in humans. If the lifespan extension was dependent upon early growth or developmental effects, it is unlikely to be useful in humans. Otherwise, it might possibly provide benefits. There should already be data from other observational studies in humans that will give a strong indication about whether there is an association in people – ideally a randomised control trial would give a more robust answer, but due to the need to follow the experiment through the human lifespan this would take too much time.”


‘Enhanced longevity by ibuprofen, conserved in multiple 1 species, occurs in yeast through inhibition of tryptophan import’ by Chong He et al. published in PLOS Genetics on Thursday 18 December 2014.


Declared interests

None declared

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