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Sean Cate
Sean Cate
June 14, 2024 ·  4 min read

Common Blood Pressure Drug May Increase Lifespan and Slow Aging

Science continues to push forward, trying to extend the human lifespan and improve overall health, and scientists have been exploring various potential anti-aging interventions. Recently, an unexpected solution has come in the form of a common blood pressure drug, rilmenidine. Initially used for treating hypertension, rilmenidine has shown promising results in slowing aging and extending lifespan in animal studies.

Discovery of Rilmenidine’s Anti-Aging Effects

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Researchers from ETH Zürich, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Liverpool, led by Professor João Pedro Magalhães, have discovered that the blood pressure drug can extend lifespan and improve health markers in animals by mimicking the effects of caloric restriction (CR).1 Caloric restriction has long been considered the most robust method for promoting longevity across various species. However, its mixed results and side effects in humans have led researchers to seek alternative solutions.

How Blood Pressure Drugs Work

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The study revealed that the health and lifespan benefits of rilmenidine are mediated by the I1-imidazoline receptor, specifically the nish-1 receptor. These receptors, located in the central nervous system and peripheral tissues, play a role in regulating blood pressure (it’s for a blood pressure drug…), insulin secretion, and lipid metabolism. Targeting these receptors opens up new avenues for research and drug development aimed at treating aging-related diseases.

Rilmenidine has been shown to mimic the effects of caloric restriction on a cellular level. In the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, both young and old worms treated with rilmenidine lived longer and exhibited improved health markers.2 This suggests that rilmenidine activates similar genetic and metabolic pathways as caloric restriction, offering potential anti-aging benefits without the need for drastic dietary changes, nor a need to start using it earlier for “best results”. 

Read More: These Are The Most Up-to-date Blood Pressure Guidelines. Are They Right for Everyone?

Potential for Human Application

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One of the key advantages of rilmenidine is its established safety profile as a widely prescribed oral antihypertensive medication with rare and non-severe side effects. This makes it a more feasible and safer option for human use compared to caloric restriction, which has shown mixed results and side effects in human studies.

Professor Magalhães emphasized the potential of repurposing the blood pressure drug as well as existing drugs for extending lifespan and healthspan, stating, “Repurposing drugs capable of extending lifespan and healthspan has a huge untapped potential in translational geroscience”. The discovery of rilmenidine’s anti-aging effects marks a significant step forward in this area, suggesting that other existing medications could also be repurposed for similar benefits.

More Than Just a Blood Pressure Drug

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Further studies have supported the potential of rilmenidine as an anti-aging drug. In mice, the blood pressure drug treatment resulted in transcriptional changes in the liver and kidney tissues similar to those observed with caloric restriction.3 Additionally, the drug’s effects were dependent on the nish-1 receptor, further confirming its mechanism of action.

The ability to extend lifespan and improve health markers in model organisms like C. elegans and mice provides a strong foundation for future research in humans. The promising results in these animal models suggest that rilmenidine could potentially be used to promote healthier aging in humans, pending further clinical trials.

Read More: Common Blood Pressure Medication May Increase the Risk of Skin Cancer

Challenges and Future Directions

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Despite the promising findings, several challenges remain before rilmenidine can be widely adopted as an anti-aging intervention for humans. Extensive clinical trials are necessary to determine its efficacy and safety in human populations. Researchers must also explore the optimal dosing and timing of rilmenidine treatment to maximize its benefits.

In addition to its potential anti-aging effects, rilmenidine may have other therapeutic applications. Previous studies have suggested that targeting I1-imidazoline receptors could be useful in treating depression, anxiety disorders, and type 2 diabetes. Understanding these additional benefits could further enhance the drug’s appeal and utility.

Conclusion

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The discovery of rilmenidine’s ability to extend lifespan and slow aging in animal models represents a significant breakthrough in the field of geroscience. As researchers continue to explore its mechanisms and potential clinical applications, the blood pressure drug offers a promising and accessible avenue for promoting healthier aging. With further research and development, this widely-prescribed antihypertensive medication could pave the way for a new era of effective anti-aging solutions, bringing us closer to the dream of a longer, healthier life.

Read More: Blood Pressure Chart: Normal & High Blood Pressure by Age

Sources

  1. High blood pressure drug called ‘rilmenidine’ dramatically slows aging in animals.” Earth. Eric Ralls.
  2. Common Blood Pressure Drug Increases Lifespan And Slows Aging in Animals.” MSN. David Nield. May 2024.
  3. Rilmenidine extends lifespan and healthspan in Caenorhabditis elegans via a nischarin I1-imidazoline receptor.” Online Library. Dominic F. Bennett, Anita Goyala, Cyril Statzer, Charles W. Beckett, Alexander Tyshkovskiy, Vadim N. Gladyshev, Collin Y. Ewald, João Pedro de Magalhães. January 20, 2023.

    Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.