Very old but in top shape | The promise of interleukin-37
Interleukin-37 is a little-known cytokine, which researchers hope will fight allergy and autoimmune disease. American physiologists at the University of Colorado Boulder have discovered that interleukin-37 also has remarkably strong anti-aging effects. Elderly mice became healthier and especially fitter after receiving interleukin-37 for a few weeks.
The main biological function of interleukin-37 is to prevent the immune system from becoming over-excited. Recently, scientific interest in interleukin-37 has increased, after fundamental research has shown that the protein blocks allergic reactions. [Immunol Res. 2017 Oct;65(5):982-6.]
Scientists hope that by modulating immune responses, interleukin-37 can play a positive role in “inflammatory bowel diseases, inflammatory respiratory diseases, atherosclerosis, hepatitis, obesity, contact hypersensitivity, Graves’ disease, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and Behcet’s disease”. [Iran J Immunol. 2018 Sep;15(3):165-74.]
Because aging is accompanied by a cascade of inflammatory responses, the researchers decided to study the effects of synthetic interleukin-37 [recIL-37] on aged animals.
The researchers experimented with mice aged 24-26 months. Most species of lab mice are old at that age.
For 10 to 14 days, the researchers injected their test animals with interleukin-37 into their small intestine every day. If the mice had been humans who had taken their interleukin-37 in oral form, they would have been given about half to a milligram of interleukin-37 daily.
Elderly mice in a control group received placebo injections.
When the researchers got the mice to run until they could no longer, they saw that the stamina of the mice given interleukin-37 was 2.4 times greater than that of the mice in the placebo group. Interleukin-37 had no effect on muscle strength.
Interleukin-37 activated the AMPK enzyme in muscle tissue.
Interleukin-37 also boosted the blood vessel-smoothing action of acetylcholine, the researchers discovered. By this mechanism, acetylcholine ensures that the muscles are supplied with sufficient oxygen and nutrients during physical activity. [Physiol Rep. 2013 Sep;1(4):e00092.] Acetylcholine works via NO, and administration of interleukin-37 takes that mechanism up a notch.
Finally, interleukin-37 increased insulin sensitivity.
The researchers did not find DMHA in any plant extract.
“The results of this initial study of the effects of interleukin-37 treatment in the setting of physiological aging indicate that recombinant interleukin-37 improves vascular endothelial function, endurance exercise capacity, and whole body glucose metabolism in old mice”, the researchers summarize.
“The present findings provide essential preclinical evidence for recombinant interleukin-37 as a potential treatment for age-related impairments in physiological function, physical disability, and chronic cardio-metabolic disease risk.”
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