Astaxanthin, a pigment compound produced by some types of algae and yeast, has been investigated for its effects on the expression and activity of proteins known to be related to the pace of aging, such as FOXO3 and klotho. At least one company is working on drug candidates derived from astaxanthin. Given the behavior of other candidate geroprotective compounds with these targets, we shouldn’t be holding our collective breath waiting on sizable benefits to lifespan. The effect size on aging as a whole tends to be modest at best, even given clinically useful benefits for specific medical conditions. The open access paper here provides a summary of recent work on this topic.
In recent years, the scientific interest in natural compounds with geroprotective activities has grown exponentially. Among the various naturally derived molecules, astaxanthin (ASX) represents a highly promising candidate geroprotector. By virtue of the central polyene chain, ASX acts as a scavenger of free radicals in the internal membrane layer and simultaneously controls oxidation on the membrane surface. Moreover, several studies have highlighted ASX’s ability to modulate numerous biological mechanisms at the cellular level, including the modulation of transcription factors and genes directly linked to longevity-related pathways.
One of the main relevant evolutionarily-conserved transcription factors modulated by astaxanthin is the forkhead box O3 gene (FOXO3), which has been recognized as a critical controller of cell fate and function. Moreover, FOXO3 is one of only two genes shown to robustly affect human longevity. Due to its tropism in the brain, ASX has recently been studied as a putative neuroprotective molecule capable of delaying or preventing brain aging in different experimental models of brain damage or neurodegenerative diseases. Astaxanthin has been observed to slow down brain aging by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels in the brain, attenuating oxidative damage to lipids, protein, and DNA and protecting mitochondrial functions. Emerging data now suggest that ASX can modulate Nrf2, FOXO3, Sirt1, and Klotho proteins that are linked to longevity. Together, these mechanisms provide support for a role of ASX as a potential geroneuroprotector.