One of the most widely used painkillers could hold a clue to preventing premature ageing and death by combating inflammation, new research has claimed.
Scientists have uncovered a strong biological link between chronic inflammation and accelerated ageing with its associated diseases and shortened lifespan.
They also found a cheap and simple antidote – the common over-the-counter painkiller ibuprofen.
The drug, taken by millions of Britons every day to treat headaches, muscle aches, sprains and flu symptoms, “rescued” inflammation-prone mice that were genetically engineered to age fast.
In a series of experiments, researchers found that ibuprofen not only quelled inflammation but also restored their ageing rate to normal levels.
They believe it could do the same for humans displaying signs of low-grade chronic inflammation, thereby protecting them from the ravages of age.
The team is now preparing for future clinical trials by studying published data from other researchers and looking for inflammation markers in patients with age-related diseases such as Parkinson’s.
Lead scientist Professor Thomas von Zglinicki, from the Institute for Ageing and Health at the University of Newcastle, said: “People age differently, some much faster than others.
“We know already that faster ageing is often associated with activated markers of chronic inflammation. With these results we can now seriously start thinking about inflammation as a potential driver of accelerated ageing and how we might be able to delay it.”
He warned against treating ibuprofen as a “fountain of youth”, however, as it only benefited mice genetically engineered to lack the ability to fight inflammation. It had no effect on ordinary mice with normal levels of inflammation and ageing.