An anti-aging compound named urolithin A (UA) derived from pomegranates has been proven in a clinical trial to improve mitochondrial and cellular health in humans, leading to extended lifespan.

The clinical trial results were published in the peer reviewed journal Nature Metabolism, and they showed that urolithin A can slow down certain aging processes by improving the functioning of mitochondria — also referred to as the cells' powerhouses. The study also showed ingesting Urolithin A poses no risk to human health.

UA is the only known compound that re-establishes the ability of cells to recycle defective mitochondria. It’s derived from biomolecules found in fruits such as pomegranates, a fruit prized by many civilizations over the centuries for its health benefits.

Pomegranates contain ellagitannins, which has molecules that when ingested are converted into a compound called urolithin A in the human gut. Researchers found UA can slow down the mitochondrial aging process. Not everyone can produce UA naturally, however.

This challenge was overcome by researcher from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB). Their work proved UA is safe, bioavailable and improves mitochondrial and cellular health in humans.

During the clinical trials, UA was orally administered in both single and multiple daily dosing to 60 healthy elderly subjects in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study conducted in four weeks.

The trial showed that regular UA dosing during four weeks is safe and effective in improving mitochondrial health through the upregulation of mitochondrial gene expression localized to the skeletal muscle. Regular UA dosing also improved mitochondrial health by the systemic plasma acylcarnitines associated with cellular and mitochondrial function.

“There are currently no effective solutions to treat age-related decline in muscle function other than months of exercise,” according to Dr. Roger Fielding, Ph.D., professor of medicine and nutrition and associate director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University,

“This is an important first clinical validation that shows urolithin A could be a promising solution for the management of healthy muscle function during aging.”

It must be noted that mitochondrial and cellular health declines with age. The results of the UA trials is a pivotal milestone as scientists explore the full breadth of benefits UA offers for managing human health throughout the aging process, said Patrick Aebischer, M.D., co-author on the study, EPFL President Emeritus, and chairman and co-founder of Amazentis, the company that developed UA.

The trials showed administration of UA leads to improved mitochondrial function by stimulating mitophagy. This is the process by which aging and damaged mitochondria are cleared from the cell, leading to the growth of healthy mitochondria.

Interestingly, mitophagy slows down in cells as people age. The reduction in mitochondrial function in the muscles of the elderly is thought to be one of the main causes of age-related muscle impairment.

“This positive clinical translation of Urolithin A shows its potential to play an important role in advanced nutritional approaches to improve mitochondrial health through mitophagy and biogenesis, and, as a result, cellular health in humans,” said Dr. Johan Auwerx, M.D., Ph.D., co-author and professor at the EPFL.

Amazentis plans to harness the promising results to quickly bring the product to the market.