Ibuprofen Extends Life?

The over-the-counter drug increases life span in yeast, nematode worms, and fruit flies, a study shows.

Dec 22, 2014
Jef Akst

Ibuprofen tabletsFLICKR, D COETZEEAspirin and the antidiabetes drug metformin are already known to increase longevity in worms and mice. Now, researchers can add ibuprofen to that list. Known to suppress inflammation and reduce risk of the age-related neurodegenerative diseases Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, ibuprofen has long been suspected to influence aging. So Texas A&M University biochemist Michael Polymenis and his colleagues tested the drug on yeast, C. elegans, and Drosophila, and found that yeast lived 17 percent longer, while the life spans of the flies and worms increased by about 10 percent. Their results were published last week (December 18) in PLOS Genetics.

“They convincingly show that ibuprofen prolongs life span in these model organisms,” molecular biologist Ellen Nollen of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands told Science.

Although it’s unclear how ibuprofen affects life span, Polymenis told NBC News that it may have something to do with the drug’s interference with cells’ ability to absorb the amino acid tryptophan. “There are open questions. For example, is it the low tryptophan amounts inside the cell that extend life span, perhaps akin to dietary restriction?” he said. Ibuprofen’s life-lengthening effect may also be attributed to its anti-inflammatory effects, but yeast and nematodes don’t suffer from inflammation. “Some anti-inflammatory drugs that people are taking may have beneficial effects that are unrelated to inflammation,” gerontologist Richard Miller of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, told Science.