Old gastrointestinal drug slows aging

Jan 06, 2009

Recent animal studies have shown that clioquinol - an 80-year old drug once used to treat diarrhea and other gastrointestinal disorders - can reverse the progression of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases. Scientists, however, had a variety of theories to attempt to explain how a single compound could have such similar effects on three unrelated neurodegenerative disorders.

Researchers at McGill University have discovered a dramatic possible new answer: According to Dr. Siegfried Hekimi and colleagues at McGill's Department of Biology, clioquinol acts directly on a protein called CLK-1, often informally called "clock-1," and might slow down the aging process. The advance online edition of their study was published in Oct. 2008 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

"Clioquinol is a very powerful inhibitor of clock-1," explained Hekimi, McGill's Strathcona Chair of Zoology and Robert Archibald & Catherine Louise Campbell Chair in Developmental Biology. "Because clock-1 affects longevity in invertebrates and mice, and because we're talking about three age-dependent neurodegenerative diseases, we hypothesize that clioquinol affects them by slowing down the rate of aging."

Once commonly prescribed in Europe and Asia for gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and shigella, clioquinol was withdrawn from the market after being blamed for a devastating outbreak of subacute myelo-optic neuropathy (SMON) in Japan in the 1960s. However, because no rigorous scientific study was conducted at the time, and because clioquinol was used safely by millions before and after the Japanese outbreak, some researchers think its connection to SMON has yet to be proven.

The exact mechanism of how clioquinol inhibits CLK-1 is still under investigation, Hekimi said. "One possibility is that metals are involved as clioquinol is a metal chelator," he explained. Chelation is a type of binding to metal ions and is often used to treat heavy metal poisoning.

Hekimi is optimistic but cautious when asked whether clioquinol could eventually become an anti-aging treatment.

"The drug affects a gene which when inhibited can slow down aging," he said. "The implication is that we can change the rate of aging. This might be why clioquinol is able to work on this diversity of diseases that are all age-dependent."

However, he admits to being concerned about how people may interpret his results.

"The danger is that you can buy a kilogram of this compound at a chemical wholesaler, but we don't want people to start experimenting on themselves. Clioquinol can be a very toxic substance if abused, and far more research is required."

Source: McGill University

Explore further: A refined approach to proteins at low resolution

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA HS3 instrument views two dimensions of clouds

3 hours ago

NASA's Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL) instrument, flying aboard an unmanned Global Hawk aircraft in this summer's Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel, or HS3, mission, is studying the changing profile of the atmosphere ...

Recommended for you

A refined approach to proteins at low resolution

Sep 19, 2014

Membrane proteins and large protein complexes are notoriously difficult to study with X-ray crystallography, not least because they are often very difficult, if not impossible, to crystallize, but also because ...

Base-pairing protects DNA from UV damage

Sep 19, 2014

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich researchers have discovered a further function of the base-pairing that holds the two strands of the DNA double helix together: it plays a crucial role in protecting ...

Smartgels are thicker than water

Sep 19, 2014

Transforming substances from liquids into gels plays an important role across many industries, including cosmetics, medicine, and energy. But the transformation process, called gelation, where manufacturers ...

Separation of para and ortho water

Sep 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Not all water is equal—at least not at the molecular level. There are two versions of the water molecule, para and ortho water, in which the spin states of the hydrogen nuclei are different. ...

User comments : 0