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Is rapamycin the new aspirin?

rapamycin
Easter Island, home of rapamycin (Ndecam/Flickr)

I’ve heard it said that if aspirin had to go through today’s FDA approval process, it would never be approved for over-the-counter use because it just does so many things. Lately, it’s been hard to cover biomedical research at Children’s without stumbling on another drug that’s also FDA-approved and also seems to have multiple uses: rapamycin.

It’s a drug that targets a pathway fundamental to nearly every cell in the body, yet is seemingly good for nearly everything. But how can one drug touch on so many cells and tissues and organs and still be both effective and safe?

First found in the 1960s in soil bacteria collected on Easter Island (the drug’s name comes from the island’s native name, Rapa Nui), rapamycin is a naturally derived antibiotic, antifungal and immunosuppressant.

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