Tests show popular painkiller can slow the ageing process
One of the most widely used painkillers could prevent premature ageing and death by combating inflammation, new research suggests.
Scientists uncovered a strong biological link between chronic inflammation caused by an over-active immune system, accelerated ageing and associated diseases, and shortened lifespan.
They also found a cheap and simple antidote to the toxic effects – the common over-the-counter painkiller ibuprofen.
The drug, taken by millions of people every day to treat headaches, muscle aches, sprains and flu symptoms, "rescued" inflammation-prone mice that were genetically engineered to age fast.
In a series of experiments, researchers found that ibuprofen not only quelled the animals' inflammation but also restored their ageing rate to normal levels.
They believe it could do the same for humans displaying signs of low-grade chronic inflammation, protecting them from the ravages of age.
The team is now preparing for future clinical trials by studying published data from other researchers and looking for inflammation markers in patients with age-related diseases such as Parkinson's.
Lead scientist Professor Thomas von Zglinicki, from the Institute for Ageing and Health at the University of Newcastle, said: "People age differently, some much faster than others.
"We know already that faster ageing is often associated with activated markers of chronic inflammation. With these results we can now seriously start thinking about inflammation as a potential driver of accelerated ageing and how we might be able to delay it.
"Inflammation has side effects and I really would not advise that everybody should take anti-inflammatories daily. But it might be useful to check chronic inflammation status, and if that is enhanced, there might be a case for using anti-inflammatories."
He stressed that in the experiments, ibuprofen only benefited mice whose rate of ageing had been accelerated. It had no effect on "wild type" mice with normal levels of inflammation and ageing.