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Pomegranate compound with anti-aging effect passes the test on humans

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Urolithin A, a metabolite of biomolecules in pomegranates and other fruits, could help to slow down certain aging processes. EPFL spin-off Amazentis, in collaboration with EPFL and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, has published an article in the journal Nature Metabolism in which the results of its clinical study are presented.

It is a fact of life that skeletal muscle loses strength and mass from the age of 50. A recent clinical study involving two EPFL companies ̵

1; the spin-off Amazentis and the Integrative System Physiology Laboratory (LISP). – demonstrated that urolithin A, a compound of biomolecules from fruits such as pomegranates, can slow this process by improving the function of mitochondria – the powerhouse of cells. A joint paper with the results of the study published today in Nature Metabolism also shows that taking the drug does not pose a threat to human health. The key to a longer life may seem too comfortable – but he is now supported by scientific evidence. Pomegranate, a fruit appreciated by many civilizations for their health benefits, contains ellagitannins. When ingested, these molecules in the human gut are converted to a compound called urolithin A (UA). The researchers found that UA can slow down the mitochondrial aging process. The catch is that not everyone naturally produces UA.

To work around this issue and ensure that all participants receive the same dose, the team synthesized the compound. About 60 elderly, all sedentary and in good health, took a single dose of between 250 and 2,000 mg UA. The researchers did not observe any side effects compared to the control group receiving placebo. The participants were then divided into four groups, each receiving a placebo or a 250, 500 or 1,000 mg daily UA dose for 28 days. Even after prolonged ingestion no adverse effects on health were found. Subsequently, the team investigated the efficacy of UA using biomarkers for cellular and mitochondrial health in participants' blood and muscle tissue. The results were compelling: UA stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis – the process by which cells increase mitochondrial mass – in the same way as through regular exercise.

UA is the only known compound that restores the ability of cells to recycle defective mitochondria. Of course, this process happens to young people. However, with increasing age, our body loses the ability to remove disturbed mitochondria, resulting in sarcopenia (loss of skeletal muscle mass) and weakening of other tissues. The team focused on slowing down or even reversing this natural effect of aging.

The paper published today also confirms that the connection is safe to eat. Amazentis, based in the EPFL Innovation Park, hopes to use the promising results to bring the product to market quickly. "These latest findings, which build on previous preclinical studies, clearly show how UA can change human health," says Johan Auwerx, a professor at LISP, the EPFL lab involved in the study. An article published in 2016 showed that the lifetime of nematode worms exposed to UA increased 45 percent from about 20 to 30 days compared to the control group. Likewise, older mice showed 40 percent better endurance while running after two weeks of treatment. The compound may therefore have even more secrets to report on its benefits to human health.

Pomegranate finally unveils its powerful anti-aging secret

Further information:
Pénélope A. Andreux et al. The mitophagy activator urolithin A is safe and induces a molecular signature for improved mitochondrial and cell health in humans, Nature Metabolism (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s42255-019-0073-4

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Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

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