Deprenyl Parkinson’s drug increases lifespan in rats

Deprenyl increases the lifespan of rats by up to 34% – could it do the same for humans?

Deprenyl, marketed as Selegiline, is a Parkinson’s drug thought to have a neuroprotective effect, working by protecting neurons against a variety of neurotoxins. Deprenyl can also delay or block apoptosis – cell death – meaning that understanding and using it could bring Longevity one step closer [1].

Longevity.Technology: From a research-to-development perspective the Longevity potential of Deprenyl remains largely untapped, and with the pressures of increasingly aging populations, it would not be surprising to see it return to mainstream research. 

The TRL score for this Longevity.Technology domain is currently set at: ‘Technology refined and ready for initial human trials.’

The TRL score for the technology addressed in this article is: “Late proof of concept demonstrated in real-life conditions.”

Scientists have been working to unlock Deprenyl’s potential for decades; in the 1980s, studies published in Europe showed remarkable life span increases in rats treated the drug [2]. Treatment at just 0.5 mg/kg increased life expectancy by 34% in 24-month-old rats.

The Deprenyl-treated rats were also more mobile and sexually active. When the study was extended to dogs (giving a better indication of how the drug would work on humans), researchers discovered that dogs between the ages of 10-15 years treated with Deprenyl at 1 mg/kg survived significantly longer than dogs in the placebo group, with 80% of treated dogs being alive at the time the study was published versus just 39% of placebo-treated dogs [3].

Deprenyl works by inhibiting the enzyme Monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) which degrades neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Dopamine plays a role in movement control and emotional response. If degraded, there can be serious consequences for our mental and physical health. As we age, MAO-B levels begin to increase in the brain, and this results in the depletion in dopamine. There is a correlation between dopamine depletion and the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Once dopamine levels in the brain drop to around 30% Parkinson’s symptoms are likely to be present.

Deprenyl’s creator Joseph Knoll, now 93-years-old, writes in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy that “Deprenyl medication seems to offer a reasonable prospect of improving the quality of life in the later decades, delaying the time of natural death and decreasing the susceptibility of age-related neurological diseases, like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease” [4].

However, the side-effects of Deprenyl are not fully understood. A group of Japanese scientists showed in 2006 that high dosages of the drug can shorten the lifespan of rats [5]. Deprenyl also metabolises into methamphetamine and some patients report adverse side-effects, including mood changes, hallucinations and fainting.

Nevertheless, the drug has retained a cult following amongst Longevity enthusiasts. Its reputation as a rather black-market, hidden cure for aging was only enhanced by the FDA’s mismanaged introduction of the drug into America. After receiving delayed FDA approval in 1989, its cost was inflated to more than four times its sale value in Europe. This led to Americans sourcing the personal-supplies direct from Europe, which the FDA later criminalised.

Research shows that Deprenyl is most effective when deployed before the onset of Parkinson’s Disease, before the degradation of dopamine has begun [6]. Using Deprenyl as a preventative measure, rather than therapy for sufferers might allow its benefits to be more widely felt.

Image: Jayne Newsome /