We wrote so much about our Members of the Scientific Advisory Board, so now, we would like to introduce them to you. We’ll start with Prof. Dr. Frank Madeo, the pioneer of spermidine research.
Admittedly, the forces of our Scientific Advisory Board probably don’t compare to those of the Jedi High Council, but their research achievements around the world are nevertheless impressive. We are proud that our scientific standards have helped us convince some of the best scientists and cell researchers worldwide of our vision. As a panel, they set the strategic guidelines for our future development and support us with the latest research results. We would like to give you more details about their work with our new series, where we introduce each of the Advisors.
Let’s start with Univ. Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Francesco Madeo. Since even we stumble across this tongue-twister, we’ll just call him Prof. Madeo, Dr. Madeo or Frank Madeo, as he is usually called. In any case, he is the discoverer of spermidine. There is a reason we are introducing him first: Prof. Madeo has been involved with our work from the beginning. It was his research that awakened the interest of our Managing Directors Dr. Gerald Sitte and graduate engineer Dipl. Ing. Herbert Pock, leading to the founding of Longevity Labs+.
Early Interest in Aging Processes
Dr. Madeo’s interest in the aging process was sparked in his childhood, as he sometimes tells. Back then, one of his aunts died fairly young, while the other was enjoying good health. As a young boy, he was wondering why some die sooner than others and if that can be influenced—a good question, we agree! Anyway, he remained fascinated by this question and decided to devote his professional career to finding an answer.
And that is what happened. Frank Madeo, born in Schwerte, Germany, in 1967, studied biochemistry at the University of Tübingen. After obtaining his Ph.D., he worked as a team leader there. In 2004, he was appointed professor at the Karl-Franzens University in Graz, Austria. Thanks to a full professorship at the Institute of Molecular Biosciences, he could study the question of aging.
According to the University of Graz, the long-term goal of Prof. Madeo’s working group is “to develop interventions that can extend the life span and especially the health span.” Based on their fundamental research in model organisms, they evaluate eating models (e.g. fasting) and pharmacological interventions for their effects on the aging process and age-related diseases. In other words: They try to better understand mechanisms of aging to develop new treatment approaches for age-related diseases and extend the healthy lifespan.
Revolutionary Scientific Discovery
His research on cells and on the background of aging in humans led to the discovery of the effect of spermidine in autophagy, the process of cell recycling. Together with his working group, he found out that the polyamine spermidine is a trigger of autophagy. They could prove with baker’s yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae) that decreasing polyamine levels are the cause of cell aging. Frank Madeo was the first to label spermidine as an “age-protective substance”.
As an intracellular recycling process, autophagy is also crucial to the immune system, plays an important role in the development of cells and organs, and is a highly relevant mechanism in many anti-aging molecules. With their in-house “Cell Health Anti-Aging Screening Platform”, Prof. Madeo and his team are looking for new, naturally occurring molecules that can slow down aging processes.
Frank Madeo’s working group also studies the balance of the competing processes of cell survival and cell death, which are regulated, among others, by spermidine. The controlled death of cells is a key element of healthy aging since it removes old or potentially dangerous cells from the body. Madeo’s laboratory first identified signs of controlled cell death in yeast, establishing a whole new research area. “This phenomenon is not only significant from an evolutionary biology perspective, but also opens up new possibilities for the treatment of infectious diseases,” reported the University of Graz.
The group’s work concerning aging processes goes even further. They also study physiological consequences of aging. For example, the question how polyamine supplementation through nutrition affects the memory performance of old flies and—in cooperation with the Charité Hospital Berlin—of elderly people. Furthermore, they established a range of functional tests that allow them to study genetic models and pharmacological interventions in a variety of different ways.
Dr. Madeo himself is researching cell death models, the role of the mitochondria in the origination of neurodegenerative diseases, plant-based substances for Parkinson’s disease, and beta-amyloid toxicity in models of Alzheimer’s disease in cooperation with the “International PhD Program – Metabolic and Cardiovascular Disease” (DK-MCD) of the Medical University of Graz.
Frank Madeo summarized the history and state of research of spermidine at the University of Graz in the research report “Eine kurze Geschichte des Spermidins und der Erforschung seiner gesundheitsfördernden Effekte” (“A Short History of Spermidine and the Research of Its Health-Promoting Effects”).
Prof. Madeo received several awards for his intensive research: He was accepted into the reputed “American Academy of Microbiology” and received the SENECA medal, a German research award endowed with 20,000 euros for his research in aging in May of 2019. Before the award ceremony, the jury stated: “His particular achievement is that he developed concepts for the prevention of aging from molecular foundations, and then continued them until the successful, mainstream application in people.”
We can only agree with the committee of the German foundation Erwin-Niehaus-Stiftung and Industrie-Club-Düsseldorf, who are responsible for awarding the Seneca medal: we are consistently impressed by Prof. Madeo’s work. He is a true Jedi of modern research history!