The work was the result of a collaboration between the Buck Institute and Texas A & M’s  Agrilife program.  Michael Polymenis, PhD, an AgriLife Research biochemist started the work in baker’s yeast and then moved it into worms and flies. Polymenis, who also is a professor in the biochemistry and biophysics department at Texas A&M University, said the three-year project showed that ibuprofen interferes with the ability of yeast cells to pick up tryptophan, an amino acid found in every cell of every organism. Tryptophan is essential for humans, who get it from protein sources in the diet. “We are not sure why this works, but it’s worth exploring further. This study was a proof of principle, to show that common, relatively safe drugs in humans can extend the lifespan of very diverse organisms,” he said. “Therefore, it should be possible to find others like ibuprofen with even better ability to extend lifespan, with the aim of adding healthy years of life in people.”

“Dr. Polymenis approached me with this idea of seeing how his cell cycle analysis corresponded with our aging studies,” said Kennedy. “He had identified some drugs that had some really unique properties, and we wanted to know if they might affect aging, so we did those studies in our lab,” he said.  “The Buck Institute is interested in finding out why people get sick when they get old. We think that by understanding those processes, we can intervene and find ways to extend human healthspan to keep people healthier longer to slow down aging. That’s our ultimate goal.”

Ibuprofen is in the class of compounds known as NSAID’s – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used for relieving pain, helping with fever and reducing inflammation.  It was created in the early 1960’s in England and was  first made available by prescription and then, after widespread use, became available over-the-counter throughout the world in the 1980s.   The World Health Organization includes ibuprofen on their “List of Essential Medications” needed in a basic health system. Although deemed relatively safe and commonly used, ibuprofen can have adverse side effects, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract and the liver at high doses.

Chong He, PhD,  a postdoctoral fellow at the Buck Institute and lead author on the paper, said the extended lifespan in the model organisms would be the equivalent to another dozen or so years of healthy living in humans.  “Our preliminary data in the worms showed that ibuprofen also extended their healthspan,” she said. “Healthy worms tend to thrash a lot and the treated worms thrashed much longer than would be normally expected. As they aged,  they also swallowed food much faster than expected.”

Citation: Enhanced longevity by ibuprofen, conserved in multiple species, occurs in yeast through inhibition of tryptophan import.  PLOS Genetics

Other contributors to the study include: Scott K. Tsuchiyama, Bhumil Patel, Alena R. Faulkner, Ruilin Tian, and Mitsuhiro Tsuchiya from the Buck Institute; Quynh T. Nguyen, Samuel R. Terrill, and Sarah Sahibzada, the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Texas A & M University; Ekaterina N. Plyusnina, Mikhail V. Shaposhnikov, Alexey A. Moskalev, Institute of Biology of Komi Science Center of Ural Branch of RAS, Syktyvkar, Russia; Matt Kaeberlein, Department of Pathology, University of Washington. 

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation(MCB-0818258; IIP-1265349), the National Institutes of Health (R01-AG043080; R01-AG025549), the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, the Presidium of RAS (12-P-4-1055), and the President of Russian Federation (MD-1090.2014.4)

About the Buck Institute for Research on Aging

The Buck Institute is the U.S.’s first independent research organization devoted to Geroscience – focused on the connection between normal aging and chronic disease. Based in Novato, CA, The Buck is dedicated to extending “Healthspan”, the healthy years of human life and does so utilizing a unique interdisciplinary approach involving laboratories studying the mechanisms of aging and those focused on specific diseases. Buck scientists strive to discover new ways of detecting, preventing and treating age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, cancer, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, osteoporosis, diabetes and stroke.  In their collaborative research, they are supported by the most recent developments in genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics and stem cell technologies. For more information:

Contacts at Texas A & M University
Kathleen Phillips
News & Media Relations Manager
[email protected]
979-324-4302 (cell)

Dr. Michael Polymenis
[email protected]