Astaxanthin and Other Natural Substances Increase the Activity of the FOXO3 Longevity Gene

image_pdfimage_print

The gene FOXO3a codes for a human protein called Forkhead box O3, also known as FOXO3.

FOXO3 belongs to the family of transcription factors which are characterized by a distinct fork head DNA-binding domain. There are three other FoxO family members in humans:

  • FOXO1
  • FOXO4
  • FOXO6

Protein FOXO3 PDB 2K86.png

Structure of protein FOXO3. Based on PyMOL rendering of PDB 2K86  (Source: Pleiotrope – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15989699)

This important protein has many vital functions in the human body and is primarily associated with human longevity, which is why it is often referred to as the “longevity gene”.  1  2 

Among the many functions and roles that this protein plays in the human body, the most important have been identified:

  • functions as a trigger for apoptosis through upregulation of genes necessary for cell death  3
  • upregulates antioxidants such as catalase and MnSOD  4
  • suppresses tumorgenesis in cancer  5
  • functions in DNA repair mechanisms  6  7
  • promotes resistance to oxidative stress  8

These important functions of the FOXO3 protein will only happen when the FOXO3 gene is activated and increased to encode the protein. 

Researchers have identified certain natural substances that activate and increase the FOXO3 gene:  These natural substances include:

  • Astaxanthin 9
  • Baicalein (from the Scutellaria baicalensis root or Baikal skullcap)  10
  • Butyrate (as Calcium Magnesium Butyrate) 11
  • R-Lipoic Acid 12
  • Selenium 13
  • Vitamin D  14

A Closer Look at Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is a keto-carotenoid which belongs to a larger class of chemical compounds known as terpenes.  Astaxanthin is usually classified as a xanthophyll.

Astaxanthin can be found in:

  • microalgae
  • yeast
  • salmon
  • trout
  • krill
  • shrimp
  • crayfish
  • crustaceans
  • feathers of some birds (e.g., flamingos)

A recent study published in 2017 and co-authored by the The University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine (“JABSOM”) and Cardax, Inc. (“Cardax”), a Honolulu based life sciences company, demonstrated that the Astaxanthin compound (CDX-085 (developed by Cardax)) is able to switch on the FOX03 ‘longevity gene’ in mice.  15

Researchers of the study stated that all humans have the FOXO3 gene, which protects against aging in humans, but about one in three persons carry a version of the FOXO3 gene that is associated with longevity. By activating the FOXO3 gene common in all humans, researchers stated that they can make it act like the “longevity” version. This important study has shown that Astaxanthin “activates” the FOXO3 gene.

The study used mice which were fed either normal food or food containing a low or high dose of the Astaxanthin compound CDX-085 provided by Cardax. They witnessed a significant increase in the activation of the FOXO3 gene in the heart tissue of those mice that were fed the higher amount of the Astaxanthin compound.  In fact, they found a nearly 90% increase in the activation of the FOXO3 gene in the mice fed the higher dose of the Astaxanthin compound CDX-085. 

The researchers concluded that their hope is that these findings will lead to a highly effective anti-aging therapy that extends the lifespan of human beings.