by Mila McManus, MD
Rapamycin, also known as Sirolimus, is a prescription drug derived from a bacteria found in the ground decades ago in the Easter Islands. Though a drug, it is a natural product with a 30 year history and a very high safety record. There are over 50,000 PubMed journal articles about rapamycin published since 1975.
Originally Rapamycin was used at high doses to prevent kidney transplant rejection by suppressing the immune system. It is also recognized to have antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties and is used in both oncology and cardiology. Oncologist have found Rapamycin to slow solid tumor growth and also effective for a type of lymphoma. Cardiologists use Rapamycin in stints to open up arteries in the heart, thus cutting down on inflammation.
This is the kind of prescription drug profile that interests functional medicine professionals. A long history with very high safety standards, this natural product is not only helpful with transplants, cancer, and cardiovascular concerns, but at low doses, is also proving to be an effective anti-aging drug.
Here’s how Rapamycin works:
The human body has an enzyme that is in our cells known as mTOR. It is the key to our cellular activity and our aging process. The mTOR enzyme drives the growth and aging in our cells. When we eat, we stimulate the mTOR pathway which is great for a 5 year old but as adults we do not need the same high level of mTOR activity. An active mTOR pathway drives the aging process and when always active, it also increases the inflammatory pathways which leads to diseases like cardiovascular, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few.
Alternatively, when the mTOR is modulated, and slowed down, the process of autophagy occurs. The human body needs both mTOR and autophagy processes and they happen alternately, i.e., when one is stimulated the other is modulated or halted. Autophagy is an important cleansing process needed in the body where we recycle things and clean out debris that is clogging things up. In the standard American diet and culture, we tend to eat too much and/or too frequently, thus driving a chronic, overactive mTOR pathway driving growth and cellular activity toward aging. The good news is, Rapamycin, binds to the mTOR enzyme, slowing down its activity, and inducing autophagy. Autophagy is a repair process and needs to occur to restore youthfulness, detoxification, and healing.
Autophagy is stimulated by intermittent fasting, Rapamycin imitates fasting.
Other Benefits of Autophagy:
- Enhance and modulate immune function
- Reducing inflammation
- Clean up debris and remove it from the body
- Enhance cellular repair and healing
- Increase longevity and lifespan.
- Protect against tumor growth
Patients who have used Rapamycin for anti-aging report increased energy levels, a more positive outlook, and reduced need for pain medication due to fewer aches and pains.
If you are over 50, you may want to discuss Rapamycin with your medical provider to see if it is right for you.