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Extending Life Spans and Health Spans

Raised levels of insulin-like growth  factor 1 (IGF-1) in humans are associated with an increased risk for several types of cancer, including prostate, breast, and colorectal cancer—while reductions in the growth factor’s influence have been linked to longevity. But until now, no one had tested whether targeting IGF-1 could help to delay aging.

In a study published in June in Nature Communications, Derek M. Huffman, Ph.D., and colleagues extended the lives of female mice using a monoclonal antibody (mAb) that targeted their IGF-1 receptors as a way to inhibit IGF-1 signaling.

Male mice injected with the mAb showed little improvement compared with male controls, but mAb-treated female mice fared much better with respect to life span and health span: Compared with female controls, the mAb-treated females had a median life span that was 9 percent longer. They were also less likely to develop cancer, and had more-youthful diastolic cardiac function, exercise tolerance, grip strength and motor coordination, and lower levels of pro-inflammatory proteins (cytokines and chemokines) associated with aging.

Significantly, these beneficial effects were achieved even though treatment wasn’t started until the mice were well past middle age. This suggests that mAbs targeting the IGF-1 receptor could eventually be optimized for use in older women to extend their life span and health span.

Dr. Huffman is an associate professor of molecular pharmacology and of medicine, and co-director of the Chronobiosis and Energetics/Metabolism of Aging Core at Einstein.

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