Turning back the clock with Aminoguanidine
Could a half eaten apple and the drug Aminoguanidine hold clues to reduce bad cholesterol (or low density lipoprotein cholesterol), and other age-related conditions such as atherosclerotic disease? Through a reaction known as ‘cross-linking’, the fruit quickly turns yellow and becomes tougher. Proteins in our bodies are thought to undergo a similar cross-linking with age. Aminoguanidine may have the potential to slow down this ageing process - and protect against key age-related conditions.
Cross-linking and the ageing process
Cross-linking – also referred to as glycosylation - may be responsible for many of the ailments associated with old age, including senile cataracts, some cancers, a condition where the artery walls thicken known as atherosclerotic disease, and general damage to the body’s immune system.
As we know, a weakened immune system can increase our susceptibility to infection. Looking at the cross-linking/glycosylation process – in particular the effects of glucose on the body – also reveals important clues about cancer. The effects of glucose on our DNA can increase the likelihood of some cancers developing. The glucose reacts to produce damaged DNA, which in turn can lead to the production of abnormal cells.
Aminoguanidine may have the potential to reverse this cross-linking process by actively protecting the proteins that make up our body.
The drug may also help sufferers of low density lipoprotein cholesterol – or bad cholesterol as it’s commonly known. Bad cholesterol is called bad for a reason. If high levels circulate in our blood they can build up and cause our arteries to thicken and narrow. This can lead to a condition known as atherosclerotic disease, not to mention an increased risk of heart problems and strokes.
Extensive studies by the University of Milan have demonstrated Aminoguanidine’s effectiveness in combating the impact of bad cholesterol. In tests on animals, Aminoguandine was found to restrict the ability of low density lipoprotein to bind to blood vessel walls. This is the process that causes arteries to thicken over time, increasing the risk of atherosclerotic disease and related health problems. In turn, the essential component of blood known as platelets (they ensure that blood clots to stem bleeding) are less likely to coagulate and form dangerous blood clots in the body.
Looking at the underlying process of cross-linking in relation to the ageing process also reveals important clues for arterial and heart health. The ageing process is associated with cardiac enlargement, arterial stiffening and atherosclerotic disease, compounded by bad cholesterol/low density lipoprotein.
Aminoguanidine has been shown to help protect against heart and associated arterial conditions linked with the ageing process. One study on animals found that the drug prevented age-related cardiac enlargement, with the membrane surface area reduced by 30 per cent. At the same time, the collagen content of arterial walls was boosted by 24-30 per cent. This points to Aminoguanidine’s effectiveness in relation to heart and arterial health, and as an ally in the fight against bad cholesterol low density lipoprotein.
Studies at the University of Milan have further demonstrated Aminoguanidine’s power in treating the debilitating condition of atherosclerotic disease/arteriosclerosis. During the 1992 study, 11 patients with peripheral arterial disease – whose blood vessels were so clogged that they were unable to walk more than 500 yards – were treated with Aminoguanidine. Afterwards, their blood flow improved by an average of 30 per cent, while exercise abilities were boosted by 50 per cent.
But it is perhaps Aminoguanidine’s potential to slow down the ageing process by actively protecting the proteins in our body that is most exciting. These include vital skin proteins collagen and elastin, together with eye lens, nerve and kidney proteins.
Sadly, all these key proteins deteriorate with age, particularly amongst diabetics, who typically have two to three times the number of cross-linked proteins than people without the condition.
Diabetes is often seen as a form of accelerated ageing, and research into the condition lends weight to the idea that cross-linking is a key factor behind the ageing process. Clinical studies involving diabetic rats found that rats given Aminoguanidine had significantly superior survival rates to those who were untreated with the drug.
Diabetic trials involving humans have also pointed to Aminoguanidine’s effectiveness in preventing a bodily process known as oxidative modification of low density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) – which can lead to atherosclerosis and atherosclerotic disease.
This is just one of the conditions that we may face as we grow older. But understanding the role that cross-linking plays in the ageing process can be a powerful ally in our quest to tackle the problems associated with old age.
Like the apple that begins to discolour and toughen through cross-linking, Aminoguanidine may provide a powerful defence against this process in our own bodies. It offers the potential to curb – or slow down - both the visible and invisible signs of ageing. From a remedy for age-related toughening and yellowing of the skin, to cataract protection and arterial and heart health, Aminoguanidine is at the centre of our quest to tackle the impact of ageing on our bodies.