Home News Fighting wrinkles and cancer…with bile?

Fighting wrinkles and cancer…with bile?

by The Concordian December 6, 2011
A Concordia genomics professor in pursuit of the science behind health and youth has uncovered a promising compound in the battle against both cancer and aging.
Vladimir Titorenko, research chair in genomics, cell biology and aging at Concordia, is the senior author of a paper published in Oncotarget Journal last month detailing the discovery of a new potential anti-aging and cancer fighting compound.
The compound, lithocholic acid (LCA), is a naturally produced bile acid in the human intestinal tract and selectively kills cells isolated from human breast cancer, human neuroblastoma and rat glioma tumours grown in tissue culture.
“We have a good feeling of this compound maybe even being some sort of magic bullet,” said Titorenko. He said that ideally, LCA would increase human life spans in terms of years and decrease the frequency of age-related disorders like cancer. Last year, the same compound was found to triple the lifespan of yeast.
Troy Harkness, a principal investigator on the study and associate professor in the department of anatomy and cell biology at the University of Saskatchewan, said the discovery is significant because LCA gives cells the chance to stop what they’re doing and just look at themselves.
“Am I damaged?” said Harkness. “Is my DNA damaged? Are my mitochondria functioning right or how are my proteins? All the basic things you need for a healthy cells are just working better.”
Titorenko is less interested in the human application of anti-aging research and more intrigued by the science of aging. “We are not doctors, we are not [any] kind of medical research-affiliated people,” he explained. “We [are] scientists [trying] to understand why […] we age.”
Titorenko warns that the study is still in its infancy and that testing on humans is a complicated matter.
“What is important is that a compound, which simply has a beneficial effect, [like] anti-cancer or anti-aging, could [also] have a certain type of undesirable side effects,” he added.
Harkness agrees. He referenced the example of thalidomide, a prescription drug  approved 10
years ago to treat leprosy and multiple myeloma. In the 1950s, tests found that thalidomide resulted
in massive birth defects in human babies after showing no side effects in mice.
“What happens in mice does not necessarily occur in humans, so you have to be extraordinarily careful when you go from an animal trial to a human trial,” said Harkness.
If approved for humans, it is uncertain how LCA would be administered. Harkness said the human digestive tract is quite toxic, so consuming the compound in a pill form might be tricky.
But even if LCA is eventually approved for humans, Titorenko said that people might not physically look like what they expect.
“Will the person still be sort of senior age, but inside being extremely youthful, healthy, energetic and so on and so on?” he asked. “It’s really hard to say because there are no known intentionally-used anti-aging drugs that have been tested on people.”
The next step in the study will include conducting independent trials of LCA on mice.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that in tests flutamide was found to reduce morning sickness in mice but resulted in birth defects among humans. The drug is actually thalidomide. The Concordian regrets this error and apologizes for any inconvenience it may have caused.

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