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Study: Ibuprofen Extends Life in Simple Species

FILE - Ibuprofen pills.
FILE - Ibuprofen pills.

Five hundred years ago, Spanish explorer Ponce de León sailed to what is now Florida. Some say he was seeking the Fountain of Youth.

Now, researchers have discovered a tantalizing hint to longer life in one of the world’s most commonly used medicines.

Ibuprofen has been around since the 1960s. People take it every day for aches and pains, and to reduce fever and inflammation.

In experiments with relatively simple organisms — yeast, worms, and fruit flies — Texas A&M University biochemist Michael Polymenis, PhD, and his colleagues found ibuprofen extended life in those species by 10-15 percent.

“Now, this may not seem like a lot,” Polymenis said in a telephone interview, “but in a human that would be another eight years of healthy life. So that was significant.”

The researcher noted that not only was ibuprofen linked to a longer lifespan, in the case of one of the organisms studied, the result was both a longer and healthier lifespan.

“In the case of worms at least, we know they’re healthy," he said. "[The ones given ibuprofen] move around better and faster on the drug. So we haven’t seen any obvious adverse effects. So the gain in their lifespan is definitely a healthy gain.”

Notwithstanding the promising findings, Polymenis suggests it’s premature to think about starting yourself on a daily diet of ibuprofen.

Many years of research are still needed, he says, to understand the aging mechanism and how ibuprofen may affect it. And of course there’s never a guarantee that something that works in animal studies — especially animals much less complex than humans — will work in people.

“We have no idea how that translates to human health. I can only, of course, speak for myself, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Along with senior co-authors, Polymenis and Brian Kennedy of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California, the study also included researchers from several other institutions in the United States and Russia.

The paper on a new quest for the Fountain of Youth is published in the journal PLOS Genetics.