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Urolithin A molecule

Podcast46 min listen

Novel molecule to promote longevity. Prof. Patrick Aebischer

Published by Science Editorial Staff
Urolithin A molecule
Live Long and Master Aging

Podcast

Live Long and Master Aging: Patrick Aebischer: A novel molecule to promote longevity

Live Long and Master Aging

Podcast

Live Long and Master Aging: Patrick Aebischer: A novel molecule to promote longevity

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This episode of the Live Long and Master Aging podcast is the first in a series produced in association with the Swiss life science company, Amazentis. It will explore the history of the company and the science behind its goal of promoting healthy aging. Professor Patrick Aebischer, chairman and co-founder of Amazentis, is a medical doctor, neuroscientist and longtime researcher. He has held distinguished positions in his home country of Switzerland, as President of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and in the United States at Brown University in Providence. In this interview we explore how an idea based on little more than “intuition” led to a deeper understanding of muscular strength, as we age, and the role of fruits such as pomegranates. We focus on urolithin A, a bioactive dietary metabolite that is naturally produced when eating certain foods, and how Mitopure, a highly pure, synthetic form of the compound, could help people avoid frailty as they grow older.

Transcript

Peter Bowes
We have to start to prepare our speeches to the social acceptance of living longer. One of the most important thing for me is the quality of life. It's not only the time, but can you live with a great quality for 80 years?
Peter Bowes
Hello and welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast. I'm Peter Bowes. This is where we explore the science and stories behind human longevity.
Peter Bowes
Now, for this and more episodes over the next few months, I'm happy to announce that the LLAMA podcast is joining forces with Amazentis, a Swiss life science company that's pioneering, cutting edge, clinically validated cellular nutrition under its Timeline brand.
Peter Bowes
This will be a partnership for a series of episodes exploring the research behind cellular nutrition, why it matters for our longevity, and also finding out more about the scientists making it happen.
Peter Bowes
Today, I'm joined by Professor Patrick Aebischer, the chairman and co-founder of Amazentis. Patrick is a medical doctor and a neuroscientist, a long time researcher, and author. Dr. Aebischer, welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Hello. Good to be here with you.
Peter Bowes
It's very good to talk to you. We're all living aren't we, through extremely uncertain times at the moment trying to move forward with whatever it is we do the best we can. And I'm curious, how are you coping with this? I suppose we could call it the new normal. There's nothing normal about it, though, is there?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Like everybody else, trying to do the best out of this time. Try to enjoy time for reading, a bit confined, but also I'm personally very much interested in the outcome. And I'm working quite a bit on the pandemic and the development of vaccines like everybody else. Trying to contribute to a good solution to this very difficult problem that we're going to have to live with.
Peter Bowes
Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that, and you're working in terms of looking at a vaccine. And of course, it is the number one question that everyone has in terms of when there may be a vaccine, and what progress is being made?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
I think it's encouraging given the short amount of time that science had to come up with a vaccine, as there are very types of vaccine. All this is new, because the old way to produce a vaccine would take much longer.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So there are new technologies that have been developed that can accelerate this, so that we first have to see if the vaccine is functional, is it safe, can we scale it up, and can we distribute it to which is quite a challenge to nearly eight billion people.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So those are enormous challenges. But I think I've never seen the science trying to really find a solution in such a small amount of time and really with a real collaboration that is on the scientific aspect of things.
Peter Bowes
And it is almost a unique situation, isn't it? You mentioned the collaboration. I don't think I've seen anything quite like this. This is a global collaboration, clearly a global pandemic that we're all facing. But this really is laboratories around the world pulling together in a way that we probably haven't seen before.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
It's the first time. When you think about it, the outbreak began of the year, and we're already now in phase 3 clinical trials with at least four different vaccines. This was just unthinkable.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So we have won the tool, but also the will to find, at least on the scientific community, a solution, because nobody could hide from this problem. Depending if you're poor, rich, extremely rich, we're all the same. We're humans, then we have to face with this little another particles that is really challenging our species.
Peter Bowes
I think it's also put the spotlight, perhaps more than ever before on the importance of taking care of our general health. And maybe this comes to the point is that we're going to be talking about in terms of your work with Amazentis and our own personal health span and longevity. And we've heard so much, of course, about people with underlying health conditions suffering far worse than others with COVID-19.
Peter Bowes
And if only, I guess, all of us were in a better state of health than the pups, there may not have been as many people dying from a virus like this. It really does show the importance of those those basic things of exercise and good nutrition.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
That for sure. And we see the importance of aging well to some extent. We know the aged population is more susceptible for a lot of different reason, because they are affected by various disease. And makes them weaker towards the virus.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So to some extent, we have to learn to live normally longer but better and better health. And I think this is also one of the goal of mission of the new science coming, and that's where Amazentis wants also to try to contribute.
Peter Bowes
Well, that's what I find so fascinating. And let's talk about that. And for full disclosure, as I mentioned at the start, this podcast is now collaboration with Amazentis. Very happy to do that. One of my goals is to help people understand the work that scientists are doing.
Peter Bowes
And I guess from your perspective, explaining your work as a scientist to the masses, to people in huge numbers. Is it crucial element of what you need to do?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Yeah, and I think scientists have a responsibility to say what do we do to advance the science, so as to enhance our capability, our well being. But at the same time, to be truthful and not overpromise things. And certainly, when you talk about ageing, we have to be modest about it. But I think, yes, we have made tremendous progress.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
We speak about the revolution of IT, the information technology of biotechnology. But probably, the biggest revolution we've ever seen is the fact that we have double life expectancy over four generations.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
For our species, this is just incredible. If we would have told our great, great grand parents that we would live twice as long as they, they would have thought.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And I think we're probably on the way, because we start to understand the molecular basis of the ageing process to be able to, in fact, not make us a turtle. But to get above a couple of generations is something that you could imagine. But it goes also with a lot of social responsibility, because as a species, we used to live over three generations.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
We started to live over four generations. But what will it be to live maybe over five or six generations?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So yes, the science is moving. We have to start to prepare our species to the social acceptance of living longer. And for this, one of the most important thing for me is the quality of life. It's not only the time, but can you live with a great quality for 80 years?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
That was really unthinkable four generations ago. I am personally 65 now, but I don't feel like an old man at all. But probably, my great great grandparent was feeling a really old man.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So we've made a tremendous progress. The key question is, can we do the same thing for another generation or two? And that's where the science is probably at the time, where we start to be able to act on it. And really, have a true science-based impact on the process of ageing.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Good ageing means that you would be in good health as you were in your 40s where you you're in your 80s. That's really the challenge.
Peter Bowes
Yeah. And you've really gone to the heart of the matter. And I guess the issue as we are able to live longer, it isn't the focus on lifespan. But we want to be, as you used that phrase, not to feel like an old man, maybe at 80 years old, to continue with those healthy years, the health span as we now describe it. And there may be a few short months where we deteriorate and finally die, but we don't have that prolonged period of ill health before we eventually die.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And that's the biggest challenge, is the quality of life. I think it makes no sense to increase the lifespan if it is not with the quality that we all want to. And there are a couple of things that we do care a lot, when I say what is a good ageing? I see four things. First is your mobility. You want to be independent.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
The second thing is cognition. Of course, this is extremely important. You don't want to forget who you are and your family and so on, that is being hit by dementia.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
The third thing is vision, because this is part of our life to be able to continue to read, to be part of the world. And of course, hearing is also a very key.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And you see when people have a hearing and eyesight problem, their quality of life diminishes quite significantly. So for me, those are the four criteria is if you think about acting on ageing that we have to keep in mind is mobility, cognition, hearing, and vision.
Peter Bowes
And to keep in mind the fact that these different aspects of our lives, our physicality, they are indeed all connected. And people often focus, I think, on, let's say, their diet for their physical ability to walk or to run or to bend over or to lift something. But as you correctly say, our eyesight, our ability to hear, our mental capacity, all linked to how we treat our body in terms of diet and nutrition.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Yeah, that's what we learn more and more. And there have been a lot of studies from diet and what we call the Mediterranean diet, which you find in Greece and so on. A lot of there is a lot of spots, several spots where people are known to live quite a long time, up to 100 years. The centenarians are... So for example, Greece, there's a small island in Greece, and it looks like diet is key.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And that was the whole purpose of Amazentis is to try to understand what were the ingredients in this diet that was really acting at the cell and molecular level on the ageing process. And this is a new science.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
We know that diet is important, but can we try to get the active component in this diet so that we could take them as supplement? Because not everybody can live in the southern island of Greece with the right olive oil and the right fish and the right vegetables. And I think this was what drove Amazentis science when it was initiated.
Peter Bowes
Exactly. I wanted to talk to you about that, and how you founded the company. It was 2007. And what was going through your mind at that stage to form a company like this? Was there a big idea in your mind?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
I'm a neuroscientist. I've worked on neurodegenerative disease for all my life, maybe Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. And I've been and really, I would say the high tech part of it. And I do remember reading an article on superfoods.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
To be honest, I was quite skeptical, because I'm the typical molecular scientist that if you don't understand exactly the mechanism, they wouldn't.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And I had a postdoc at the time that came and said, there is an article saying that in pomegranates, there might be something. And we had the Alzheimer mouse in a laboratory, which is a transgenic mouse that reproduce disease. And we've decided just to give some pomegranate extract to really see if what we were reading was true or not.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So again, as a scientist, I was extremely sceptical. And we found some early indication that there might be something there, and that raised my interest. And I was asking myself, can we try to deconvolute?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So at first, I did a lot of reading on pomegranates. Very interesting like, it was identified already the 15th century as the fruit of youth.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So our ancestors had identified this fruit as a very key part of diet that was related to anti-ageing, but no real science was made on it. Because usually, when you try to deconvolute, that means try to find the active ingredients in something as complex as a fruit like pomegranate. It's very rare that you're able to find the molecules.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Anyhow, to make a long story short, we thought it was worth it. And then we decided, I had already built the two other biotech while I was in the States. I was, for what? Nine years at Brown University. So I knew about what biotech was, how to put a company together.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And with one of my old graduate students who is now the CEO, Chris Rinsch, we decided... It was a bit crazy to say, why don't we try it to do? Because this was seen as soft science. Nothing serious would come out of it.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
But I thought it ought to be done. So we've convinced some major business angels to invest in our company, but we had really an intuition, nothing more to be honest.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And again, it took quite some time. And you have to be a bit lucky in science. But then we found... In fact, we were able to identify a molecule called urolithin that you don't find it in the pomegranate.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
But if you eat pomegranate and you have the right microbiome, I mean, the bugs that are colonising your guts, it transforms those tannins into this molecule. And fast in a very interesting way, this molecule activates what we call my mitophagy.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Mitophagy is the process to rejuvenate your mitochondria. The mitochondria are the small organelles that you find in your cell that produce the energy that the cells needs called the ATP. That's the energy of the cells.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And this urolithin is able to stimulate the rejuvenation of those mitochondria. So it is not the whole process of ageing, but it's certainly one very important one. Because when you age, the number of mitochondria in those cells diminish, they are less functional. And when you are able to induce again this process, you are rejuvenate and produce new mitochondria that provides the cell the energy that it requires. So that took, to be honest, 10 years.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So it's not something that you do just in six months in the laboratory. And very carefully, we've looked at it, first, in vitro, cultivating cells and then small little worms that we call C elegans, then in mice, and more recently in humans.
Peter Bowes
Clearly, this is very exciting science. Just going back a little bit, I'm curious to know when you realised that there was something to this. In those early days, you looked at pomegranates, you knew the history, you knew the stories, but you didn't have any scientific proof about how beneficial they could be for us, that must have been quite a light bulb moment for you in your mind. Quite exciting.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Yeah. Because suddenly, you found there's no molecule that we know that can induce this process called my mitophagy, rejuvenation of mitochondria. And here where we have identified them, first molecule that could do it.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And it came indirectly for pomegranates. But now we realise that not only pomegranates provide, but for example, nuts, berries and so on contained those tannins that are again transformed by your gut microbiome and your bacteria into this urolithin.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
But what we found, which was also very surprising, is not everybody has the capacity to produce this urolithin out of those fruits. We believe now that the current scientific evaluation is about a third of us have the capacity to really transform efficiently those tannins into this micro... into this urolithin.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
But the other two-thirds, we can drink and eat as much pomegranate, blueberries, nuts, we don't produce these molecules. So and that came the idea that we needed to synthesise it.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And then, of course, if you take it, if you admit it orally, then you will have the benefit of this molecule, urolithin, despite the fact you have not the right bacteria in your gut.
Peter Bowes
That's a very important point to make, isn't it? That while we talk so enthusiastically about pomegranates and perhaps other fruits as well, that not all of us can benefit?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
That's right. So only a third of us. And even before we start to realise during our clinical trials to get the amount that you need, you would, for example, have to drink between 1.5 and two litres of pomegranates per day if you have the bacteria. If you don't have it, you won't produce it.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And to be honest, it's quite a challenge because a pomegranate is okay, maybe for a small amount, but I don't think that there would be many people that would be able to swallow two litres of pomegranate juice per day.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So I think this is also the other part of the equation. So we have to find a more efficient way to get this urolithin into our cells. And that's where we are able to produce this, to synthesise this and you could take it as a supplement or now we're working also in a regular pill.
Peter Bowes
The point that you make there reminds me of the beneficial or potential benefits of drinking red wine. That realistically, to get the some of the known benefits from red wine, we have to drink a tremendous amount of it.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
That's right. There was the first molecule was discovered called resveratrol, which is an interesting molecule, much less efficient than urolithin, but however... And I love... I'm Swiss-French so I love great good red wine. But I think we've made a calculation that we would have to drink between eight and 10 litres per day. And that I could tell you your liver would probably not like this a lot.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So I think that's why we have to go through the supplement route if we want to benefit from those molecules. And that's why you need biotech companies identifying the active component and providing them in a way that is easy to take on a daily basis.
Peter Bowes
And what you're talking about now is a pure and extremely pure form of urolithin A?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
That's right. it's like a normal drug. So it's it's a chemical molecule with a little bit of excipients and something you could swallow, or we put it in the supplement so that it's also a nice experience because you... As we do this, we didn't want this to be a drug like this, but should be a real experience.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Now, of course, I am in Switzerland where we started the Nespresso, for example, coffee the way to do it. So it should be a nice way. For me, it's associating something nice to take a while benefiting.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And usually drugs are not that nice to take. We take them, we swallow them. But for us, the idea was, can we try to provide the pleasure of something to take that is good for you? Because often when you take things that you like, are not necessarily good for you, or at moderately level, but obviously you shouldn't exaggerate.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So for us, in the philosophy of Amazentis is also very important, is the experience. That to have pleasure with the experience of taking a molecule that is good for you.
Peter Bowes
And in Amazentis terms, this is what you call Mitopure?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
That's right. That's a name that we gave to the urolithin. Urolithin is a chemical definition and Mitopure is the brand of the molecule, because this was the first time there was identify and it will be now present in the various ways. It could be a supplement. It could be a smoothie. It could be a pill. And some people prefer to take it with pills, I don't tend to like to swallow pills.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
I'd rather have a pleasure of putting something in a nice yoghurt or in a smoothie. So again, I have the impression that it's good. It's good for me, but it's good for me for the long term, it's good for me now because I enjoy taking it.
Peter Bowes
And do the beneficial effects, are they immediately obvious to people or this is more likely, clearly something is going to take time? We are talking about longevity benefits after all. That perhaps you take the supplement today, you're not going to necessarily notice anything tomorrow?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So and certainly it takes time to see if we will have an effect on longevity for our species. But I think... And that's why we've concentrated our clinical trial and try to see if something could be seen and could be measured at the reason amount of time.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And one of the first thing that degenerates more weight is the muscle. we lose muscle strength, so we tend to not walk as much.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And our first clinical trials were really geared at trying to quantify if by taking this molecules we can increase the muscle activity, which is related to mobility. And that's what the first clinical trials have shown, is we're increasing what we call the six-minute walk and you calculate how much work you could do in six minutes and you could see.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So that will not take two hours. But over several weeks, we see already an effect on your mobility and your capacity to walk. And I think this is very important.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So we also probably think that it has also an effect on cognition and so on. But that would be, it take time to see. But what we're doing, we haven't really an anti-ageing molecule. There will be several of them because there are several ways to tackle the problem. But first is this energy will be provided to all your cells.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So the easiest to evaluate is the muscle function. It's easier to do to look at the cognitive, but I'm totally convinced that is probably also very good for your cognitive function because we know in the brain, I'm a neuroscientist, that, of course, the brain is affected the same way. And the brain needs a lot of energy. In fact, it's the organ that consumed the most.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So I think it will also, and of course, the hearing, for vision because it's a whole process. So probably all your cells need to have more energy while we age or go back to normal energy. But the ones that are the easiest to evaluate, we thought, was the muscle and mobility.
Peter Bowes
And that is why I make the connection to longevity, perhaps on an individual basis, because frailty is often the beginning of the end for so many people. I mean, quite simply falling over because older people don't have that muscular strength anymore that could ultimately lead to the end of their lives and perhaps a premature end of their life.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
It's exactly, that's one of the key thing. It's that you don't have the same strength. You tend to fall, you break your hip, you go to the hospital and then you start... It's very difficult to recuperate. And this is the beginning of the end.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So I think having muscle strength is key in your ability to move and to move safely. And that's why we put a lot of emphasis in this first component, because you can quantify it. But also we know in terms of the quality of life, it's an essential component.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And of course, your ability to move gives you the independence that we all enjoy as long as we can. And I think that's why this was the first thing that we want to prove scientifically that this urolithin can really do something on your muscle function.
Peter Bowes
Just going back to when you formed the company, which you called Amazentis, was there a reason for that words? Can you explain why you gave the company that title?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Yeah, at the time, because people spoke a lot about superfruits. So you say pomegranate is one of them. But there are a lot of very interesting fruit that you find in the Amazon, Acai and so on. So people have looked there are a lot of smoothie that are now given. Unfortunately, they don't have the science behind, but we know that a lot of those fruits grow into nature, into the Amazon.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So we were inspired by the Amazon. And at the time I had a trip in the Amazon and saw a couple of those fruits that I have never seen before. I said maybe there are some very interesting new fruits that have new molecule that we would be interested to try to find. And that's where the word Amazentis came, even though now we have concentrated our work on the pomegranate. But I think in the future, it's very much thinkable, at least, I am interested to look beyond pomegranate. Can we identify all the molecules that have also a synergistic effect on slowing down the aging process?
Peter Bowes
That's fascinating. You have had a very varied career, haven't you? You're a neuroscientist by training. You're a medical doctor. You're now working in, amongst other things, cellular biology. You are a strong proponent and advocate for a multidisciplinary approach?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Yes. And I've always been and I was trained as a medical doctor, but in neuroscience, you're very much exposed to a lot of technology, engineering. It's it has a system levels. it goes from robotics to actual intelligence.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And I was always fascinated by the convergence of technologies. And I am very curious by nature. And I'm not afraid of looking at the new concept, but I'm very, very keen on doing it the scientific, the deep scientific way.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And I think that was one of the motto... It's one of the motto of Amazentis is to keep the quality of the science. It has to be science-based and clinically proven. And this is... For us the real... And I can only do this because I am scientist. And then I run a university. I was president of one of the big two institute of technology of Switzerland. And before, as I told you, I was a Brown University on the faculty of medical sciences.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
You know how scientists work. it's by evidence and the quality of what you do is key. I could never promote something I don't believe that we wouldn't have proven scientifically.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So for me, this, of course, that would affect my reputation and I've worked for 60 years. So I would have never done this without the rigour that we've put, for example, in the clinical trials, we read what we call double-blind.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
The same way you test a new drug. That means you have people that take it, but the evaluator. Neither the person that takes it nor the evaluator know that you are the active component or just a placebo that doesn't have the active compound.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And this is the way of science. And this is, by the way, the same way that we are now testing new components for the COVID. And this is the scan of me, the scientific rigour was key and it's key. It's at the heart of Amazentis philosophy.
Peter Bowes
And that scientific rigour, I think is more important today, it's always been important, but it's more important today than ever before when we live in this world of so-called, and I hate the expression, but fake news, when people can look at the Internet and not quite know what to believe.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And that's really the real problem because you can see everything. And I said we said at the end it's the reputation. So the whole idea... We're scientists. I was trained as a medical doctor. So this has to go a certain way. That's the way we prove that something is efficient or not. And for me, it is unthinkable to do it a different way.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So I think in all this yes, there's a lot of charlatan things and so and so. For us, it's to go back. Yes, by the way, they are component in fruits and natural. By the way, a lot of the drugs are developed from natural compounds.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
But I think the way to do it is so important. And I think that's the whole thing that we want to do it and that's why we've put so much emphasis. It took a lot of time and resources to prove it.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
But hopefully, this would be accepted by the medical community because this was proven by the regular ways that science move. And for us, I think for the whole team, this is the way. It's the only way we could do it.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And for me, when you're talking about ageing, it's very important. it would be criminal to promise things that we don't have. So yes, and I hope I'm convinced that this molecule has that effect.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
For how long for? we don't know yet. But now for the first time we have a molecule that really has a real impact on the aging.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Now, I don't know it's going to give you five, 10-year, only time will say. But this is a new science that is coming. And I think we have to do it with the same rigour as we do it for the general, I would say, pharma development.
Peter Bowes
That's always the irony of longevity research, isn't it? That you say only time will tell to some extent in terms of the long term benefits. And that's just the very nature of studying ageing.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
That's right. But at the same time, you could try to find surrogate. If we can show that like we did that by taking this, if you have... you've suffer from frailty and you could do 300 metres of a six-minute, then by taking this molecule, you go to 400, 450, you've proven that you were able to reverse, that is, one component of your ageing process now.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And knowing that this molecule acts on all your mitochondria, all your cells, you could deduct that it's probably also good for cognition. And that will take time to prove. And what Amazentis will do, is that this molecule is also active in cognition.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
That is on one aspect we have something very firm and that's why we chose the muscle function, because it's useful. It's a real good indicator for your ageing. But on this one, you don't have to wait 20 years to see if it has a defect or not.
Peter Bowes
You mentioned that you worked here in the United States at Brown University. And I'm just curious what you learnt from the American way of doing things. And perhaps the American psyche, I think, must have been quite different to what you used to?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Yeah, I came as a naïve postdoc, Swiss postdoc to the United States. I was given the possibility because I came with a grant from the Swiss National Foundation to go to Harvard, to MIT, but I always like a good place, but that maybe a smaller that you had a little more freedom to do whatever you wanted. And Brown was the perfect place. It's a liberal college university of great quality in the great place, Providence that I really enjoyed.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And it was the land of opportunity. I came as a postdoc and I guess, six years after I was already a tenured professor and I was the chairman of a department, this is unthinkable in Europe.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So there's this kind of the sky's the limit, which is fantastic. In fact, the first company I did, I do remember so vividly, it was on a Friday evening, somebody knocked at my door and I saw a person coming and telling me, I've read a lot of things you do. I want to do a company with you. And I said, what? I didn't what he was talking about.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
In fact, the gentleman called Mark Levin is one of the great venture capitalists now in the United States, started a big firm called Third Rock Venture in Boston. And that was his first company that he was doing.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So I've learnt by osmosis. I had no clue. And five years after, we were on the Nasdaq for an IPO, so I had a crash course.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
This would have been unthinkable in Europe, certainly at the time. But this is the wonderful thing about the US, everything is possible. And that's why I love. So I owe a lot to the United States about not being afraid if you have something that you think is important to try to make it. And that's what I what I've learnt.
Peter Bowes
Me too. I've lived in California since 1996 and noticed and appreciate exactly what you're talking about, that ethos of that can-do mentality. And that if you think you can't do it, well, actually if you try again, you probably can do it, or there's someone who is prepared to collaborate with you to make something happen.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
That's right. And forgiveness, if you did succeed the first time. I was lucky enough because it worked. So we did an IPO and so on.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
But I think and that's what I try to bring back to Switzerland because I love, this is my country, those are my roots and so on. But I think we were rather timid. I think we've learnt that, I think... But again, and I think that's something so key about specifically if you're young and ambitious and have ideas, you don't have to wait for your boss to retire to do something, the US allows you.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
You give freedom to young... in the academic system, to young and you have to prove. You're going to have you by yourself, let's prove me that you could do it and you can be promoted. And that way, in no time, if I would have been told that six years after I was chairman of the Department of an Ivy League school, I would have never thought. It was unthinkable.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
But that's why this land of opportunity and its ability to accept that I hope foreigners to integrate them and so on. I just hope that this will continue over time. But that's a different issue.
Peter Bowes
Yeah. Do you, I certainly believe this, that thanks to the Internet, which clearly wasn't around in your early years and mine either, that it has made the world a smaller place in many senses. It is easier, like you and I right now are communicating. We can see each other actually as we're recording this interview, which would have been unthinkable 20 or 30 years ago. It is a smaller place, and perhaps some of that can-do attitude of America is maybe filtering through a little faster to other parts of the world.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Yes, and I think very much. We're becoming, as we say, a small village. And I think this is very obvious these days. It's the COVID crisis that we were able to continue to interact to work with our colleagues around the world, which would have been unthinkable thing. Without this, we were writing letters at the time. It would have been just impossible.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So this is the beauty of what technology can bring you today. But at the same time as a neuroscientist, our brain is changing. The human species is not a fixed species, so it evolves with time. But again, we owe a lot to the United States. It was interesting and big.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Before the World War, it was Germany, Europe. And then the leadership came to the US. God knows. I would say that science was... Communication of science before the First World War, was that a German? Now the thing is maybe in 50 years it'll be Chinese. I don't know. But the world is evolving.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
But I think because of this, we have... And I think the COVID crisis is a good example. Despite of the politics, the scientists work together because we have a common language in science. That's what is so beautiful by science, because the laws of physics are the same in Beijing, San Francisco, or Geneva.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And I think we're starting with those two to share a community, but also a responsibility as scientists, because science has never been as fast, probably, as now. And but also we have responsibilities about the application.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So even the field that we work on on ageing, of course, it'd be fantastic if you could slow down dementia, Alzheimer's and so on. But also we have to be careful that we don't produce people that have lost their minds that live at the expense of society.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So I think there is a responsibility of science that is coming over the years that is very important. But that's why it's so fascinating. And I think we have to learn also to speak about that, to express our doubts, our hopes and share it, because otherwise society will not follow.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
I'm still flabbergasted that there's so many people that are against vaccines that, again, that are creationist. That means as a scientist, we were not able to communicate.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So we have to learn how to do this even in the fields and not overpromise things, but really come up with the rigour of what we think, which has been until now, the best way to do it, which is the reproducible experimentation paradigm that scientists have developed over the centuries.
Peter Bowes
And with Amazentis, that's exactly what you've been doing for these past few years, that rigorous scientific process. And clearly, in 2019, with the publication of the first human clinical trials, that was a pivotal point for the company, as you really are now at quite a key point moving forward.
Peter Bowes
You might have been delayed a little bit because of COVID as everyone has with just about everything we do. But the next few months are going to be quite interesting, aren't they?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
That's right. We first published this thing in the top journals, in The Nature of Family. So because we want to have this rigour, now we also had the... because I think it's important, the pleasure part of the experience is important. We've packaged the way that it does look like a drug that we would have to swallow painfully. And now, of course, this is the time.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
But again, we could start to do this despite COVID because we could do the kind of thing. We could talk through the world or throughout the world.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
We will start in the United States because also I think this is an important market for that kind of thing. It's also an import that the FDA was involved in the process, that we also want to have the rigour to saying this needs to be safe. This is probably the first and most important thing.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And we are hopeful that hopefully people will see the effect because we strongly believe that we can help people, because at the end, you want to help people, as we've said, to live a good life as long as possible. So to increase the quality of life so that the experience while we are on this earth is an enjoyable one.
Peter Bowes
And you mentioned the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, maybe just for listeners to this around the world, explain the significance of the FDA being involved?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Now, of course, because the FDA protects the consumers from false claim and also things that could be dangerous for your health. So for us, it was very important to go what we call the grassroot general god of safe. That means we will send the dossier to the Food and Drug Administration so to ask them if they thought we could proceed with this, the FDA has looked at it and think that this is safe.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
This is extremely important for us because, of course, primum non nocere, the phrase you don't harm that we say in medicine. And for us, it was extremely important to have this label and then an overseen of the FDA. We would do the same thing in EMEA which the correspondent of the FDA in Europe to do it.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So we know we're going to work. We're very ambitious. We want these products to be bought by people because we believe it's a good one that would help them. But we want to do it again, the same way with the rigour that we want, even from the regulatory agencies. So for us, it would be unthinkable not to work very closely with the FDA to promote our product.
Peter Bowes
Let me just ask you in closing, and I often ask scientists this same question, really, looking at your body of work throughout your career and everything that you've learnt, what is it that you apply to yourself and your own way of life now with your own longevity or your own health span in mind? If there was something that you could pinpoint and say, yes, I know that and I know that to be crucial. And it's something that I live by every day, what is it?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Through the poor COVID, also while I was President of the university, you have a very busy life, it's hard to exercise, the amount of rest.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So now I had a little more time, so I started to exercise two hours a day by just walking because we have the pleasure to live in a gorgeous scenery and so on. And to think because this is a great thing I had never had before is the diet.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
I'm trying to to now be much more respectful, but also it's difficult to respect everything. So being helped by a molecule like urolithin is key. And that's why, to be very honest, I was very keen and I've been now there for nearly three months on urolithin. So I walk the talk. For me, it's very important that because I truly believe in this molecule. So for me, it was very important to be the first customer.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
But I found this also a pleasure. And of course, for us, it's wonderful because this is the result of 30 years of studies. From what I've started as a medical doctor, as a neuroscientist, because we haven't proved yet in neuroscience, but I am hopeful that we will see also an effect on cognition.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And, of course, as you age, to be honest, the most precious thing that I have that we probably all have is our brain. So that seeing the effect in humans on the muscle, I'm even more keen about taking this to try to protect my brain. And I have nothing to lose because I know that this molecule is extremely safe.
Peter Bowes
And looking forward, I often wonder why people aspire to reach not necessarily a super great age, but we talk a lot about healthspan, maybe from a spiritual perspective, apart from the physicality of being healthy when you're older, which we've talked about, but just being an older person and still being aware, still being connected, still being involved in life, is that something, again, that you can pinpoint that you aspire to?
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Yeah. And I think, of course, you want to... I'm an artist. And my father lived until he was 90 years old, but he was a painter. And artists are wonderful because they don't retire at 65. They continue.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And what is the most probably important part of our brain is our creativity. And when you look even in the history of music and so on, you look at Richard Strauss, so painting and so on, you have a lot of very... Some of the most important piece of work were often done where those artists were very old.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
So I think this part of it and the most precious part of it is our creativity because it expresses who we are as human beings. And for me, that's probably the most important thing, is to keep this enthusiasm for life, this creativity, this ability to contribute.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
And of course, for this, you have to have good cognition. You have to get to have good mobility is better to have good hearing, even though Beethoven, while he was deaf, was still able but he was a genius. And Dega or Peter was able to sculpture while he lost his vision. But those are exceptional people.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
For more regular people like us, I think as much as you have the sense to have a life that is meaningful, the better it can be. And of course, that's why if we could contribute a little bit to that, I will have the impression that we did something useful.
Peter Bowes
Dr. Aebischer, so this has been a hugely enjoyable conversation. Thank you very much indeed.
Dr. Patrick Aebischer
Thank you.
Peter Bowes
And over the coming weeks, we'll be hearing from some of the other researchers who are looking at this fascinating field of science. We'll also explore more about the science behind Mitopure, the pure form of Urolithin A. We'll hear some of scientists who've spent much of their lives working to understand the importance of mitochondrial health and muscle strength as we age.
Peter Bowes
And if you'd like to read more about Dr. Aebischer's work, I've put some details into the show notes for this episode, and you'll find those at our website, llamapodcasts.com. LLAMA being our acronym, Live Long and Master Aging.
Peter Bowes
This episode of the LLAMA podcast was brought to you in association with Amazentis, the Swiss life science company that's pioneering cutting edge clinically validated cellular nutrition under its Timeline brand.
Peter Bowes
And if you enjoy what we do, you can write and review us at Apple podcasts. You can follow us on social media @LLAMApodcast. And you can direct message me at Peter Bowes. Many thanks for listening.

About the Speakers

Dr. Patrick Aebischer, MD

Physician Researcher

Professor Patrick Aebischer, chairman and co-founder of Amazentis, is a medical doctor, neuroscientist and longtime researcher. He has held distinguished positions in his home country of Switzerland, as President of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and in the United States at Brown University in Providence.

Peter Bowes

Journalist Podcaster

Peter Bowes is a news correspondent for the BBC and host of Live Long and Master Aging (LLAMA) - a podcast that explores the science and stories behind human longevity.

He is trained as a biologist and worked in medical research, early in his career, in London. For more than three decades, as a reporter, he has covered news and current affairs for television, radio, and digital outlets, including the BBC. He has also made documentaries, specializing in human longevity and wellbeing. Based in Los Angeles, Peter is interested in science-based regimes that promote healthy aging. The Live Long and Master Aging podcast, launched in 2017, explores issues, including dietary interventions, related to healthspan or the number of years that we enjoy optimum health. In 2020 he founded HealthSpan Media LLC to produce media content focusing on the biology of aging, food, movement, and mindfulness. Peter, an avid exerciser, enjoys hiking, swimming, and weightlifting, as part of a constantly moving lifestyle.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. * 500mg Mitopure™ have been shown to (1) induce gene expression related to mitochondria function and metabolism and (2) increase the strength of the hamstring leg muscle in measures of knee extension and flexion in overweight 40-65 year olds. Data from two randomized double-blind placebo-controlled human clinical trials. ** 500mg Mitopure™ have been shown to deliver at least 6 times higher Urolithin A plasma levels over 24 hours (area under the curve) than 8 ounces (240ml) of pomegranate juice in a randomized human clinical trial.