RosScreening Inc., a subsidiary of Rostock Group, has enlisted the help of JAX–West to launch a mouse screening project that will test whether any of some 1,000 different compounds extends the lifespan of mice by at least 30 percent. If such a compound exists and has the same effect in humans, a person expected to live to 75 would live to a 100 or more.
But this is just the initial, $7 million phase of the project. Alexey Ryazanov, professor of pharmacology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and advisor for the project, says, “In fact, we are hoping to eventually test up to 100,000 compounds that cover virtually the entire spectrum of biologically relevant pharmacophore diversity space.”
In July, the world heard the first report of a pharmacological intervention that lengthens the life of mammals. In a paper published in the journal Nature, Jackson Laboratory Professor David Harrison and colleagues showed that rapamycin, a drug used by human transplant recipients to prevent rejection of the new organ, extends the lifespan of mice even when administered late in life.
Harrison is an advisor on the RosScreening project, in which several thousand mice will be tested. All the mice are JAX® Mice strain B6C3F1/J, an F1 hybrid widely used in toxicology studies.
Harrison’s research with rapamycin was conducted under the Interventions Testing Program (ITP) funded by the National Institute on Aging. The RosScreening project differs from the ITP approach in several ways. The ITP project tests each compound on large cohorts of mice, conducts studies in triplicate, and uses committee-approved compounds. So far, it has tested only seven compounds, and the only one that has significantly increased mouse lifespan–rapamycin–extends median and maximal lifespan by about 10 percent.
In contrast, the privately funded RosScreening initiative project is a large, rapid-paced and high-throughput screening project that will ultimately test thousands of compounds in relatively small groups of mice. Its goal is to find compounds that increase mouse lifespan by at least 30 percent.
Professor Harrison explains, “The focus is on large effects, increasing lifespan by a third or more. The number of mice tested for each drug need not be very large, and large numbers of drugs can be tested. If there are unexpected mechanisms that cause conventional drugs to have large benefits on lifespan of the B6C3F1/J mouse, they will be found, and there is a good chance such benefits would mean basic mechanisms of aging were retarded.”
Harrison adds that because the risk of most chronic diseases (cancer, atherosclerosis, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, Altzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.) doubles with every eight- to nine-year increase in human age, “a drug that retards aging greatly would prevent or postpone all those diseases. While a long shot, the project is valuable because it would have enormous health benefits if successful.”
Why did Ryazanov choose JAX–West to oversee this project, 3,000 miles from home? “I have the most respect for its scientists and services,” he says. “The Jackson Laboratory has the highest concentration of experts working in the genetics field. I went to Sacramento in September, and all that JAX–West has to offer there works in our favor. They have the space, very high health status standards, breeding services, compound evaluation services, and pathology services–all in one place.”
The Jackson Laboratory is a nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine. In May, the Laboratory expanded its footprint in California, moving to an 85,000-square-foot facility in Sacramento that is twice the size of its former location in West Sacramento. The JAX–West facility supports researchers in western North America with scientific services including mouse breeding and compound efficacy testing, and provides many popular JAX® Mice strains more expediently and with reduced shipping costs.
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