Easter Island Drug Makes Mice Happier, Smarter


Out of Polynesia emerges a drug that may have potential for preventing cognitive decline associated with old age.

ScienceDaily describes a study just published in the journal Neuroscience:

Rapamycin, a bacterial product first isolated from soil on Easter Island, enhanced learning and memory in young mice and improved these faculties in old mice, the study showed.

“We made the young ones learn, and remember what they learned, better than what is normal,” said Veronica Galvan, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, part of the UT Health Science Center. “Among the older mice, the ones fed with a diet including rapamycin actually showed an improvement, negating the normal decline that you see in these functions with age.”

Rapamycin is an antifungal agent administered to transplant patients to prevent organ rejection. The drug is named for Rapa Nui, the Polynesian title for Easter Island. This island, 2,000 miles from any population centers, is the famed site of nearly 900 mysterious monolithic statues.

The drugged mice were also less anxious and depressed, the researchers noted. They also had elevated levels of “feel good” chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Happy, alert, relaxed and old – that’s one lucky bunch of research mice. Whether humans will also enjoy such a blissful old age thanks to Easter Island’s bacteria will no doubt take years of research to reveal.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Better Sleep in the Golden Years?

The Secrets of Easter Island

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