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Anti-Aging Drug Rejuvenates Oral Health


A new study shows that short-term treatment with the common organ rejection drug rapamycin reverses periodontal bone loss, attenuates inflammation, and makes the oral microbiome revert to a more youthful state in old mice.

What is rapamycin?

Rapamycin (also known as sirolimus) is a macrolide, a class of antibiotics that includes Biaxin (Clarithromycin), Zithromax (Azithromycin), Dificid (Fidoximycin), and Erythromycin. Macrolides inhibit the growth of bacteria and are often used in the treatment of common bacterial infections.

Originally isolated from a strain of the Streptomyces bacterial genus, it was found in the Easter Island soil near Rapa Nui, hence its name, and was initially described as an antifungal agent by its discoverers.

Rapamycin is an FDA-approved drug that is used to combat organ rejection during donor transplants and targets the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway. The mTOR pathway is composed of the mTORC1 and mTORC2 protein complexes. It senses amino acids and is associated with nutrient abundance. It is a kinase, which means it adds phosphates to molecules. mTOR is a master regulator of anabolic metabolism, the process of building new proteins and tissues.

The mTOR pathway is one of the four major pathways that control energy metabolism, and its deregulation is thought to be one of the reasons we age. Numerous experiments with rapamycin in recent years suggest that it can influence aging and promote longevity, at least in mice. For this reason, rapamycin has earned a reputation for being an “anti aging” drug, and, as this new study shows, the description could well be apt.

Rapamycin seems to reverse some aspects of aging

In this new study, a team of researchers led by Dr. Matt Kaeberlein at the University of Washington in Seattle (perhaps better known for his work at the Dog Aging Project) shows that the organ transplant drug rapamycin is able to regenerate the bone into which teeth are embedded [1].

The drug also helped to restore the oral microbiome (the community of microbes that live in the mouth) to a level similar to that found in younger animals, and it reduced inflammation as well.

In this world first, the drug has been demonstrated to rejuvenate the oral environment by spurring new bone growth supporting the teeth.

Periodontal disease is an age-associated disorder clinically defined by periodontal bone loss, inflammation of the specialized tissues that surround and support the tooth, and microbiome dysbiosis. Currently, there is no therapy for reversing periodontal disease, and treatment is generally restricted to preventive measures or tooth extraction. The FDA-approved drug rapamycin slows aging and extends lifespan in multiple organisms, including mice. Here we demonstrate that short-term treatment with rapamycin rejuvenates the aged oral cavity of elderly mice, including regeneration of periodontal bone, attenuation of gingival and periodontal bone inflammation, and revertive shift of the oral microbiome toward a more youthful composition. This provides a geroscience strategy to potentially rejuvenate oral health and reverse periodontal disease in the elderly.


This, once again, shows that aging is not a one-way street and is, in fact, malleable and open to intervention. Drugs such as rapamycin are already approved, have a good safety profile, and may represent low-hanging fruit for therapies that target aging.

These promising results are not only in mice; there are already some results for the drug in humans, a recent human trial for skin aging using the same drug recently published positive results.

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[1] An, J. Y., Kerns, K. A., Ouellette, A., Robinson, L., Morris, D., Kaczorowski, C., … & Kaeberlein, M. (2019). Rapamycin rejuvenates oral health in aging mice. BioRxiv, 861369.

About the author

Steve Hill

Steve serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 600 articles on the topic, interviewed over 100 of the leading researchers in the field, hosted livestream events focused on aging, as well as attending various medical industry conferences. His work has been featured in H+ magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Swiss Monthly, Keep me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve is one of three recipients of the 2020 H+ Innovator Award and shares this honour with Mirko Ranieri – Google AR and Dinorah Delfin – Immortalists Magazine. The H+ Innovator Award looks into our community and acknowledges ideas and projects that encourage social change, achieve scientific accomplishments, technological advances, philosophical and intellectual visions, author unique narratives, build fascinating artistic ventures, and develop products that bridge gaps and help us to achieve transhumanist goals. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project.
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