What if there was one drug that you could take...low dose...just once a week...that would increase your lifespan, improve your health, and mitigate your cancer risk (and this safely and with very few to no side effects)--would you take it?
In 1964 a team of Canadian scientists landed on Easter Island (Rapa Nui being the name given it by the indigenous peoples), a remote island in the South Pacific about 4000 miles off the coast of Chile better known for the mysterious, large moai statues found there. The scientists were there to study the health of the inhabitants who seemed to be rather immune to tetanus, a common soil-based bacterium where there are horses and there were more horses on Easter Island than people. This despite the common practice of going barefoot.
Multiple soil samples were taken and tetanus only isolated in one. However, from these samples, though not itself isolated until some time later, a novel bacterium (Streptomyces hygroscopicus) was discovered that produced a macrocyclic compound that would be labeled rapamycin (named after Rapa Nui). It would be found that rapamycin is a medicinal powerhouse with a myriad of beneficial health effects in mammals.
I first learned of rapamycin a number of years ago while engaged in the biohacking space. I had read reports of the possibilities of rapamycin increasing both lifespan and, arguably more important, healthspan. It was doing so in rodent models, increasing lifespan by 60%. And this with with low, infrequent doses of the drug that proved to have little to no adverse effects. Moreover, not only did the mice live longer, they also suffered far less degenerative and age-related diseases and their biological age was significantly less than their chronological age. If this wasn't enough, the same studies also showed that rapamycin delays the onset of cancer by reducing cancer cell proliferation and inhibiting tumor growth and, in some cases, eradicating it completely. To quote one study, "rapamycin robustly and reproducibly prevents cancer."* Again, these are murine studies (studies completed on mice) but there is a reason that rodents are the mammals of choice for such studies - because the gene function of mice is very similar to that of humans permitting the extrapolation of good data in terms of disease and health.
Rapamycin is also, in low dose, infrequent administration, a potent enhancer of immunity, restoring immune system function in older populations. In fact, it has been shown to enhance immune response to the flu vaccine, reduce the cytokine storm associated with COVID-19 thus mitigating the damaging effects of the virus on lung tissue, and more.
If the above were not enough, rapamycin has also demonstrated its ability to reduce body fat, particularly visceral body fat. When combined with regular exercise this effect is even more potent.
Fast forward to this year. I began revisiting the work being done on rapamycin in the anti-aging, longevity, and anti-cancer venues and was blown away by the amount of research completed in just the past five years. The research is substantially more robust and there seems no question that rapamycin does all that it promises and more. Yes, questions remain. E.g., Exactly how well do the murine studies translate to humans? What is the ideal dosage and dosing regimen? Should rapamycin be cycled or utilized regularly (interesting note: in the murine studies, even brief exposure to rapamycin increased longevity and decreased impact of age-related disease and decline)? These are the things that need to be hammered out by the scientists engaged in the study of rapamycin and its analogs. But we have come to the point where the evidence is overwhelming and can no longer be ignored by the mainstream medicine. Though, the fundamental problem here is that our current medical model is focused on treating symptoms of disease and disease mitigation versus preventing disease and age-related decline. But that discussion is for another article.
There are, of course, certain populations that cannot and should not take rapamycin. The drug was initially used as an immunosuppressant in kidney transplant patients. We do know that, in higher daily doses, it can suppress immunity (more on this at a later date as there is some debate as to whether or not rapamycin is an immunosuppressant or immunomodulator). However, at low, infrequent doses it has the opposite effect. Again, if interested in pursuing this therapeutic, it is important to first speak with a qualified provider.
After spending a number of months pouring over the current published data, I started taking rapamycin three months ago. I currently take 5 mg once weekly, which is the current recommendation by rapamycin researchers and physicians specializing in longevity and wellness. And I plan to continue taking rapamycin with the caveat that I will keep an eye on the science, particularly the dosing schemas and adjust accordingly.
Though anecdotal and N=1, my personal experience has thus far included: ample visceral fat loss, I haven't gotten sick (despite both my school-aged son and wife having been sick with respiratory viruses multiple times), and I just feel better. I regularly have my labs drawn and everything has been perfect to date. My biological age is lower than my chronological age by a number of years (per the Levine phenotypic measure) and I have no doubt that I can further reduce this with rapamycin, diet, and exercise.
I highly recommended that anyone over 40 take a look at rapamycin and speak with an in-the-know physician (plenty of these can be found online) about the drug. The rewards simply outnumber the risks.
For me, I have a five-year old son and I am an older father. I want to live longer to be around for him and I want those extended years to be healthy ones. If I can mitigate heart disease, diabetes, immunosenescence, and cancer, even by a small margin with minimal to no risk - it is a no brainer. The risks of age-related disease and the decline associated with aging are known risks and pose, in my estimation, a greater risk than any presented by low dose rapamycin for those who can take it.
Stay tuned for much more on rapamycin. In the next article we'll be taking a look at exactly how rapamycin does what it does.
*Disclaimer: Though I am a nurse by profession, I am not YOUR nurse nor am I a medical provider. This is not medical advice and is intended solely for information and educational purposes.