Nestlé Health Science set to use anti-aging compound

Urolithine A molecule, developed by EPFL spin-off Amazentis, could affect muscle aging © 2019 Istock

Urolithine A molecule, developed by EPFL spin-off Amazentis, could affect muscle aging © 2019 Istock

Amazentis, an EPFL spin-off based in Innovation Park, announced today that it is entering into a strategic partnership with Nestlé Health Science. The startup plans to develop products based on urolithin A, a promising anti-aging compound.

The Fountain of Youth is still the stuff of legend, but the anti-aging compound urolithin A is now one step closer to the market. Amazentis, in conjunction with EPFL researchers, identified some of the benefits of this compound in 2016 – and their work soon attracted the attention of Nestlé Health Science. The multinational has just entered into an agreement whereby it will take an equity stake in the startup and include urolithin A in future dietary supplements, foods, drinks and medical nutrition products. The agreement also provides for a joint research program in order to further develop the compound for use in other areas, such as health and medicine. The general safety of Urolithin A has been recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The anti-aging compound acts on an important mechanism in cell metabolism and health: mitochondria. These organelles – the cells’ powerhouses – play a major role in the aging process. Urolithin A is the first natural bioactive compound able to slow that process, which it does by clearing away old and damaged mitochondria. Tests on both nematodes and rodents produced spectacular results.

Our bodies produce urolithin A naturally after we eat foods containing its precursors, such as pomegranate. Yet we would need to consume a huge quantity of that fruit to reap a significant benefit. What’s more, the amount of urolithin A produced by our bodies can vary widely depending on the flora present in our gut microbiome. Some people don’t produce any at all.

Testing the benefits for muscles

Research into urolithin A is progressing rapidly, and further benefits are likely to be discovered. In 2016, the compound’s effect on nematodes and rodents was described in an article appearing in Nature Medicine. More recently, a clinical study showed that the compound has a positive impact on biomarkers of cell health in plasma and in skeletal muscle tissue. The compound’s effectiveness on various other processes, including muscle health and functioning, is currently being quantified in clinical trials.