(NaturalNews) A company devoted to creating drugs that replicate the effects of the naturally occurring phytochemical resveratrol has been purchased by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline for $270 million.
Because research has suggested that resveratrol - a chemical found in red wine - may help extend life and fight the effects of aging, the company Sirtris was founded in 2004 to artificially replicate these effects.
Sirtris researchers believe that resveratrol's age-fighting effects come from its ability to activate proteins known as sirtuins.
It has long been known that rodents placed on a near-starvation diet live up to 30 percent longer than those on a normal diet. Many scientists believe that this effects occurs because the bodies of animals react to famine by emphasizing survival - and thus tissue repair - and de-emphasizing other bodily functions such as reproduction. Some evidence suggests that this physiological change is triggered by the activation of sirtuins.
"The upside is so huge that if we are right, the company that dominates the sirtuin space could dominate the pharmaceutical industry and change medicine," said Sirtris co-founder and Harvard Medical School researcher David Sinclair.
Resveratrol is also believed to be able to activate sirtuins in the body. In research conducted by Sinclair, sedentary mice given massive doses of resveratrol became able to run twice as long on a treadmill before becoming exhausted.
Sirtris has already artificially synthesized several resveratrol-like chemicals that also appear to activate sirtuins. One of these has shown promise in being able to reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics, and the company hopes that the drugs might also be used to treat degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and cancer.
But researchers are also seeking to make sure that sirtuins are really behind resveratrol's effects. Sinclair is currently researching mice whose ability to produce sirtuins has been genetically disabled.
"The question of how resveratrol is working is an ongoing debate and it will take more studies to get the answer," he said.