Helping to Discover a New “Fountain of Youth”

For centuries, explorers have been in search of a mythical “fountain of youth,” whose waters are believed to restore beauty, strength and health. While this endeavor has proven futile, researchers at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) are conducting studies on a promising compound that could activate the body’s own “fountain of youth.”

In March, JABSOM and Cardax, Inc., a Honolulu-based life sciences company, jointly announced results of a preliminary animal study indicating that the Astaxanthin compound CDX-085 displayed the ability to significantly increase the expression of the FOX03 gene, which is known to play proven role in human longevity. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid compound found in marine organisms, such as like lobsters and salmon that has shown to reduce inflammation and cholesterol in human studies. While Cardax’s CDX-085 is not currently available on the market, it sells a less potent version called Zantho-Syn.

“All of us have the FOXO3 gene, which protects against aging in humans—but about one in three persons carry a version of the FOXO3 gene that is associated with longevity,” said Dr. Bradley Willcox, professor and director of research at the Department of Geriatric Medicine at JABSOM and principal investigator of the National Institutes of Health-funded Kuakini Hawai‘i Lifespan and Healthspan Studies. “By activating the FOXO3 gene common in all humans, we can make it act like the “longevity” version. Through this research, we have shown that Astaxanthin ‘activates’ the FOXO3 gene.”

In the study, mice were fed either normal food or food containing a low or high dose of the Astaxanthin compound CDX-085, developed by Cardax. The animals that were fed the higher amount of the Astaxanthin compound experienced a significant increase in the activation of the FOXO3 gene in their heart tissue.

“This preliminary study was the first of its kind to test the potential of Astaxanthin to activate the FOXO3 gene in mammals,” said Richard Allsopp, associate professor, and researcher with JABSOM’s Institute of Biogenesis Research. “We found a nearly 90 percent increase in the activation of the FOXO3 ‘longevity gene’ in the mice fed the higher dose of the Astaxanthin compound CDX-085.”

Willcox and Allsopp hope to continue their research to study further effects of Astaxanthin on mice, including if the compound can actually extend the life of mice. Future clinical trials could focus on whether CDX-085 can improve cognitive function in patients diagnosed with early stage dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

“This groundbreaking University of Hawai‘i research further supports the critical role of Astaxanthin in health and why the healthcare community is embracing its use,” said Cardax, Inc. CEO David G. Watumull. “We look forward to further confirmation in human clinical trials of Astaxanthin’s role in aging.”

“We are extremely proud of our collaborative efforts with Cardax on this very promising research that may help mitigate the effects of aging in humans,” said Vassilis L. Syrmos, UH vice president for research and innovation. “This is a great example of what the Hawai‘i Innovation Initiative is all about—when the private sector and UH join forces to build a thriving innovation, research, education and job training enterprise to help diversify the state’s economy.”