Coming Down the Pike: Sirtuins

Feb 02, 2008
Volume 32, Issue 2

Text sirtuins are the new kinases, according to a presentation given last month at the JP Healthcare Investors Conference in San Francisco by Sirtis CEO Christoph Westphal. Sirtuins are a class of proteins that seem to modulate aspects of the aging process. Researchers had noted some time ago the increased longevity of animals on highly calorie-restricted diets. These animals also enjoy better sugar regulation than do animals on higher-calorie, higher-fat diets. Within the past year, scientists have shown that sirtuins in general, and the protein SIRT1 in particular, are activated in calorie-restricted animals.

All of this has led investigators to initiate studies of the sirtuins in order to someday mitigate some of the effects of aging. Westphal predicted that the sirtuins may even merit the kind of attention now enjoyed by the kinases—a family of proteins in which some of its members have been implicated in cancer and autoimmune diseases, and which have been the focus of intense scrutiny by drugmakers for most of the past decade.

Indeed, many of the health benefits of a calorie-restricted diet can be simulated by resveratrol, a small molecule found in red wine. Scientists now understand that resveratrol also activates SIRT1.

Now, it seems, Sirtis has found a small molecule that it is calling SRT1720, which is more potent than resveratrol, and which might be useful in the treatment of Type II diabetes. Westphal reported at the meeting that the experimental drug lowered blood glucose levels and improved glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity in mouse models of diabetes and obesity. Late last year, Sirtis researchers, in collaboration with investigators at the University of California at San Diego and Harvard Medical School also reported these results in Nature.


J.C. Milne, P.D. Lambert, S. Schenk, et al., "Small Molecule Activators of SIRT1 as Therapeutics for the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes," Nature (450) 712–716.

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