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Anti-aging molecule discovered that extends lifespan

Researchers at the Buck Institute have made a significant breakthrough in the field of aging and disease with the discovery of a new drug-like molecule. 

This molecule, known as MIC (Mitophagy-inducing compound), has been shown to extend lifespan and improve health in a variety of ways. 

How does it work?

MIC operates by promoting healthy mitochondria through a process called mitophagy, which removes and recycles damaged mitochondria. 

Mitochondria are crucial organelles in cells that produce energy, and their health is directly linked to overall cellular health and longevity. 

Critical insights 

The study demonstrated that this molecule extended the lifespan of C. elegans, a nematode worm frequently used in aging research. 

MIC also improved mitochondrial function in mouse muscle cells and showed promise in ameliorating pathology in neurodegenerative disease models.

Mitochondrial dysfunction

Mitochondrial dysfunction is known to play a role in various age-related diseases, including neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders, muscle wasting, and cancer progression. 

Despite the potential of treatments targeting mitochondrial dysfunction, none have been approved for human use to date.


The mitophagy-inducing compound is a coumarin, a type of naturally bioactive compound found in many plants and certain types of cinnamon. 

Coumarins are known for their diverse health benefits, including anticoagulant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anticancer, antihyperglycemic properties, and neuroprotective effects.

Unexpected breakthrough 

The discovery of the effects of MIC originated from a study on Parkinson’s disease. A team of experts including Dr. Julie Andersen and Dr. Shankar Chinta were examining known enhancers of mitophagy in a mouse model. 

The mitophagy-inducing compound emerged as a significant find in their research. Instead of immediately testing MIC in mice, the researchers opted to study its impact on overall aging and its mechanism of action using the C. elegans model. 

This approach led to the discovery that MIC belongs to a different class of molecules that enhance the expression of a key protein in autophagy and lysosomal functions (TFEB).

Cellular health 

The study, led by Dr. Andersen and research scientist Dr. Manish Chamoli, revealed that MIC activates the transcription factor TFEB, a master regulator of genes involved in autophagy and lysosomal functions. Autophagy is an intracellular recycling process vital for cellular health. 

Study implications 

The research findings are significant as they show MIC’s potential in not only extending lifespan but also preventing mitochondrial dysfunction in mammalian cells, offering new avenues for treating various age-related diseases.

“There’s a bottleneck in efforts to develop potential therapeutics in the field of geroscience, and the bottleneck is that we don’t have enough molecules in the pipeline,” said study senior co-author Dr. Gordon Lithgow.

“MIC is a great candidate to bring forward given its therapeutic effect across multiple models and the fact that it is a naturally occurring molecule.”

Anti-aging strategies

Anti-aging strategies encompass a variety of practices and research areas focused on slowing down or reversing the aging process. Here are some key areas:

Healthy lifestyle choices

This includes a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and stress management. Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption also plays a critical role.

Skincare regimens

Using sunscreen to protect the skin from UV damage, along with regular use of moisturizers and anti-aging products like retinoids and peptides, can help maintain skin health.

Medical interventions

These include hormone replacement therapies, cosmetic procedures like Botox or fillers, and plastic surgery. These methods should be approached cautiously and under medical supervision.


Some people use supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, coenzyme Q10, and others believed to have anti-aging effects. However, their effectiveness can vary and should be used judiciously.

Emerging research

Areas like telomere therapy, stem cell research, and gene editing are being explored for potential anti-aging benefits. While promising, many of these are still in the experimental stages.

Mental health and social engagement

Maintaining mental health and active social life is essential. Activities that stimulate the mind, like puzzles, reading, and learning new skills, along with regular social interaction, can contribute to longevity and quality of life.

Regular check-ups

Regular visits to healthcare professionals for check-ups can help in early detection and management of age-related diseases.

Anti-aging foods 

Certain foods are known for their potential anti-aging benefits, mainly due to their high antioxidant content and other beneficial nutrients. Here’s a list of some of these foods:

  • Berries: Rich in antioxidants and vitamins, berries like blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries help combat oxidative stress and inflammation.
  • Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, and other greens are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They also contain compounds that may help protect against cognitive decline.
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, and other nuts are sources of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, and have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and longer lifespan.
  • Whole Grains: Foods like quinoa, oats, and brown rice are high in fiber, which can improve digestion and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Fatty Fish: Salmon, mackerel, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory properties and beneficial effects on heart and brain health.
  • Green Tea: Rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, green tea is believed to protect against oxidative stress and reduce the risk of certain cancers.
  • Olive Oil: A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, promoting heart health and potentially benefiting the skin.
  • Dark Chocolate: High in flavonoids, dark chocolate (in moderation) can improve heart health and protect the skin from UV damage.
  • Turmeric: This spice contains curcumin, a compound with strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  • Avocado: High in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, avocados can promote healthy skin and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Tomatoes: Rich in lycopene, an antioxidant, tomatoes can protect the skin from UV rays and may reduce the risk of certain cancers.
  • Garlic: Known for its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties, garlic can also reduce the risk of heart disease.

Incorporating these foods into a balanced diet can contribute to overall health and potentially slow some aspects of the aging process. It’s also important to maintain a diverse diet and consult with a healthcare professional, especially when making significant dietary changes.

The research is published in the journal Nature Aging.

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