LONDON (TIP): A new anti-aging drug may be just five years away , say scientists who have identified the role of an enzyme in muscle wasting and associated age-related problems.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham believe that inhibiting the enzyme could hold the key to developing ways of preventing, or reversing, the adverse effects of aging.

The research is a significant step in understanding the role played by the enzyme 11beta-HSD1 in the degenerative effects of aging -including sarcopenia (age related muscle wasting).

Researchers claim the anti-aging drug could be available to the general public within the next five years. The expression of 11beta-HSD1, responsible for activating the steroid hormone cortisol, was increased in the muscles of older females.

About 134 healthy volunteers, aged between 20-80, underwent physical and biochemical tests at a clinical research facility. The findings show that expression of 11beta-HSD1 in skeletal muscles is increased 2.72-fold in women over 60 years of age, compared to those aged between 20 and 40. In male participants, no difference was seen.

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“As yet, we don’t know why it appears to only occur in women, it is obviously an interesting area for further research. We are planning to look at whether hormones such as estrogens could be involved,” Dr Zaki HassanSmith, from the University of Birmingham, said. The researchers wanted to investigate novel ways of increasing healthy life span -the years in which people can maintain active lifestyles without the debilitating impact of muscle wasting.

“Looking at this particular enzyme seemed like an intriguing way forward. We knew how it works in relation to Cushing’s Syndrome, which is characterised by similar symptoms, and thought it would be worthwhile applying what we knew to the aging population,” said Hassan-Smith.

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