Methylene Blue May Improve Mitochondrial Health and Increase Lifespan

Mitochondrial dysfunction appears to play an important role in aging.  As these crucial intracellular organelles become damaged by the ROS they create, they become less efficient leading to more ROS and more cell damage.

Cell age is correlated with mitochondrial dysfunction.

There are potential therapeutic  strategies to improve mitochondrial function.  A new review artificial examines the emerging concept of “mitochondrial medicine,” and some of these applications might have the potential to reduce aging.

In particular, the authors propose that mild redox agents may help by removing free electrons and thus reducing ROS and intracellular injury.  They mention the idea of manipulating mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) but argue since there is no technology yet to do so, mitochondrial pharmacology is the immediate next step.

Their review steps through several natural and synthetic compounds that might act to protect mitochondria, but then focuses in specifically on a compound that acts as a mild redox agent, methylene blue (MB).

This is a compound in use for decades as a pathology tissue stain and as a treatment for certain types of poising.  The authors point out this is a lipid soluble compound that can easily diffuse to the mitochondrial membrane.  It can easily accept electrons and rapidly cycle between reduced and oxidized state.

They point to several studies showing MB increases brain health in older animals and discuss a pivotal study from 2008 showing MB delays cellular senescence in culture.

The authors propose MB helps prevent the loss of Complex IV, one of the mitochondrial electron transport chain complexes, and that the loss of complex IV underlies age-related decline.

Though the authors do not specifically propose MB may reduce aging, the implications that it may are clear.  To date there are no studies specifically published examining the effect of chronic MB administration of lifespan in any species.

I pointed this out to lead author Hani Atamna who confirmed “we are testing this right now.”

“However,” he adds. “longevity is not the goal of my research and theory.”

“It is more of improving the quality of life (mental and physical) as we grow older,” says Atamna “extension of lifespan may be byproduct of that (or not!).”

Co-author Joseph Dhahbi tell me he is  also chronically adminstering MB to animals and specifically is “conducting an experiment to study the effects of MB on gene expression using Next Gen Sequencing.”

“Hopefully,” he says through this research, “we will know more about its mechanism of action.”

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