9 Jul 2009

Soil tests raises hopes of slowing ageing process

10:29 pm on 9 July 2009

An anti-fungal compound discovered in the soil on remote Easter Island, between New Zealand and Chile, may help to fight the ageing process.

When American scientists treated old mice with the drug rapamycin, derived from the compound, it extended their expected lifespan by up to 38%.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, raise the prospect of being able to slow down the ageing process in older people.

However, a British expert warned against using the drug to try to extend lifespans, as it is an immuno suppressant in organ transplants and heart stent surgery.

Rapamycin was first discovered on Easter Island in the 1970s, the BBC reports. It is also being tested as a possible treatment for cancer.