A compound called rapamycin has been discovered by researchers at Oregon State University to have expanded capabilities in a process associated with the aging of cells called cellular senescense. Rapamycin is a natural compound first discovered from the soils of Easter Island in the South Pacific Ocean. One result of cellular senescense is the proliferation and secretion of damaging substances that lead to inflammation, a process called senescence-associated secretory phenotype, or SASP. Before this research, rapamycin’s sole role was believed to be to increase the action of Nrf2, a master regulator that can “turn on” up to 200 genes responsible for cell repair, detoxification of carcinogens, protein and lipid metabolism, antioxidant protection and other factors. In this process, rapamycin helped reduce levels of SASP. The new study concludes that rapamycin could also affect levels of SASP directly, separately from the Nrf2 pathway and in a way that would have impacts on neurons as well as other types of cells. It has already been intensively studied because it can mimic the valuable effects of dietary restriction, which in some animals has been proven to extend their lifespan. One researcher explained that when they clear out the senescent cells in laboratory animals, the animals live longer and have fewer dieases. They are hopeful that rapamycin might prove to have similar effects in humans without side effects.