Bruce Ames, of the University of California fed elderly rats acetyl-L-carintine and the anti-oxidant alpha-lipoic acid for a month. Both chemicals are normally found in mammal cells, and both are sold in health food stores. Then he tested the animals for memory and stamina. ?With these two supplements together, these old rats got up and did the macarena,? he says. ?The brain looks better, they are full of energy: everything we looked at looks more like a young animal.?

His colleague Tony Hagen, of Oregon State University, says, ?We also see a reversal in loss of memory. This is a dual track improvement that is significant and unique. This is really starting to explode and move out of the realm of basic research into people.?

Ames and his colleague think the combination ?tunes up? the tiny power centers in the cells known as mitochondria. They were interested in research from 1999 showing that old rats responded to one of the compounds. They eventually tried a combination approach to simultaneously restore activity and combat the stresses of chemical damage to cells.

?We significantly reversed the decline in overall activity typical of aged rats to what you see in a middle aged to young adult rat seven to 10 months of age,? Hagen says. ?This is the equivalent of making a 75- to 80-year-old person act middle aged. We have only shown short term effects but the results give us the rationale for looking at these things long term.?

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