Resveratrol in Grapes – The Solution to Aging-Related Diseases?
This mouse study published in the journal Cell Metabolism suggests that a synthetic type of a substance found in grapes can be beneficial to man.
How Resveratrol Works to Prevent Cell Aging
Resveratrol is a substance that is present in red wine. There is evidence from research that this compound can prevent cell aging.
Rodents have a gene called SIRT1, which when inactivated makes resveratrol of no effect to them. But when resveratrol was used to test the muscle tissue of mice with an active SIRT1, there was a boost in mitochondrial function.
Professor of genetics, David Sinclair, from the Harvard Medical School in Boston explained that the energy utilized for proper cell function is produced by the mitochondria. It has been observed that many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, often occur with low energy production by the mitochondria. The aging process also occurs with low mitochondrial energy.
Now, this study doesn’t really mean that drinking a bottle of Chianti will do you a lot of good. Although, the skin of red grapes is rich in resveratrol, you should know that the test mice in the study were given an amount of resveratrol that would require drinking 100 glasses of red wine.
So, the action plan that should result from this study is to create a synthetic resveratrol that can activate SIRT1. Sinclair and his colleagues are actually in the process of creating a medication that can treat aging-related diseases. It’s not really meant to extend life but may be a good side effect.
The ability of resveratrol to prevent aging has been suggested by previous studies, but how it works is still unclear. Different studies, some used yeast, others worms and flies, showed that resveratrol’s ability works on sirtuins, a class of seven genes. In man, the particular gene targeted is SIRT1.
Other studies gave another idea of making resveratrol work by activating AMPK, which is a separate energy pathway that produces mitochondrial energy without needing sirtuin genes.
It wasn’t easy doing the resveratrol experiment on test mice with SIRT1, because mice that have developmental defects do not have the SIRT1 gene and cannot be used for the experiment.
Since the SIRT1 gene is a must-have in using resveratrol for boosting mice metabolism, Sinclair and his team worked for a while on a method that can produce SIRT1 in healthy adult mice.
Included in the study of Sinclair is the activation of the AMPK pathway in mice that was given resveratrol in high doses, but this did not benefit mitochondrial function. The team also tried using low doses of resveratrol, but it did not have any effect on AMPK.
Sinclair is Sirtris Pharmaceutical Inc’s consultant and co-founder. The company as long been developing synthetic molecules that are similar to resveratrol for treating age-related diseases. The clinical trials for this research have been stopped by GlaxoSmithKline, the company owner, but Sinclair continued the project.
Sirtris’ CEO, George Vlasuk, said that the study by Sinclair is the first definitive evidence that linked SIRT1 to reservatrol’s metabolic effects. He also said that Sinclair followed the lead by previous studies that focus on making small-molecule compounds that can activate the enzymes of SIRT1 and use these compounds to potentially cure diseases related to aging.
Philippe Marambaud, who’s studying Alzheimer’s disease and memory disorders at Manhasset, New York’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, said that Sinclair’s research is an additional input to the body of evidence that supports the potential power of resveratrol to combat aging.
The study showed the community that resveratrol can only have a positive effect on AMPK activation and boost mitochondrial function if the SIRT1 gene is present in vivo.
Limitations of the study on resveratrol
Success in animal testing doesn’t mean that the same results will be produced in humans.
Humans are different from mice. This field of study is surrounded by controversy especially when you manipulate the genes in mouse testing. Extra care is necessary when claiming that resveratrol will work in humans for medical purposes. The discoveries are part of a bigger picture. People still need to wait and see.
Photo credits: Oregon State University via Flickr, CC by-SA 2.0