A drug, which is already used in high doses in medical detoxification emergencies, may help prevent many age-related health problems when used at much lower levels, suggests new research conducted on rats.
The drug N-acetyl-cysteine, or NAC might help maintain levels of a known antioxidant glutathione and prevent the routine metabolic declines associated with ageing, said the study published in the journal Redox Biology.
“Using NAC as a prophylactic, instead of an intervention, may allow glutathione levels to be maintained for detoxification in older adults,” the researchers said.
The detoxification compound glutathione, helps resist the toxic stresses of everyday life -- but its levels decline with age and this sets the stage for a wide range of age-related health problems.
“We’ve known for some time of the importance of glutathione as a strong antioxidant,” said lead author Tory Hagen, Professor at Oregon State University in the US.
“What this study pointed out was the way that cells from younger animals are far more resistant to stress than those from older animals,” Hagen noted.
Decline of the detoxification mechanisms are linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, according to scientists.
“In young animal cells, stress doesn’t cause such a rapid loss of glutathione. The cells from older animals, on the other hand, were quickly depleted of glutathione and died twice as fast when subjected to stress,” Hagen said.
“But pre-treatment with NAC increased glutathione levels in the older cells and largely helped offset that level of cell death,” Hagen pointed out.