Logo Istituto Affiliato

Institute of Oncology Research (IOR),

affiliated to USI,

run by an


foundation with the same name


IOR: new anti-aging therapy identified in collaboration with the University of Padua and the Veneto Institute of Molecular Medicine (VIMM)

Wild-harvested, organic Salvia Haenkei (Liguria, Italy)
Wild-harvested, organic Salvia Haenkei (Liguria, Italy)

Institute of Oncology Research

Scientists at the Institute of Oncology Research (IOR, affiliated with USI and a member of Bios+) in collaboration with the Veneto Institute of Molecular Medicine (VIMM) and the University of Padua have made a significant discovery by identifying a novel anti-aging therapeutic. The study is published in the prestigious journal "Nature Aging".



Aging is a primary risk factor for the development of numerous chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, chronic kidney disease and cancer. Rather than individually treating individual age-related diseases, a new paradigm has emerged to target aging itself on a cellular and molecular level. Research on targeting senescent cells has become an attractive approach for the treatment of age-related disease and dysfunction.

Cellular senescence is characterized by an irreversible arrest of cell growth, along with release of inflammatory factors collectively termed the SASP (senescence associated secretory phenotype) which contributes to age-related tissue dysfunction. Subsequently, natural products and botanical extracts represent a treasure trove of thousands of molecules for investigation as senotherapeutics – therapeutic agents that target senescence or SASP.

This is the context for a study by which a group of scientists led by Prof. Andrea Alimonti, Principal Investigator at IOR and VIMM and Prof. Monica Montopoli, Associate Investigator at VIMM and the University of Padua (Italy) identified a lifespan and healthspan promoting natural senotherapeutic.

The discovery

"Preclinical studies conducted by our research team have shown that a low dose of a botanical extract of Salvia haenkei (Haenkenium, HK) can prolong life expectancy in a healthier way," says Prof. Alimonti. "The study involved treatment with the HK extract dissolved in water. This treatment in preclinical studies significantly increased the survival of animals compared to untreated animals, with greatly improved aging parameters."

"This extract is the result of a careful process of standardized extraction, characterization, and titration that allows reproducibility that is essential for studies of biological effects," explains Prof. Montopoli.

"Our in vitro and in vivo data indicate that Haenkenium is one of the most potent senotherapeutics available to us being superior to many products already on the market such as, for example, resveratrol or quercetin," concludes Prof. Alimonti.

"We observed an improvement in aging parameters in different tissues," explain Sara Zumerle and Miles Sarill, first authors of the study and researchers at the University of Padua and VIMM.

Indeed, HK treatment significantly decreased some age-related symptoms in the muscles, kidneys, skin and lungs of aged mice, and markers of cellular senescence were found to be reduced in the tissues analyzed. Chemotherapy-induced senescence caused by treatment with doxorubicin, an anticancer drug known for its side effects, was also mitigated by HK treatment.


In many Western countries with low birth rates, the increasing number of elderly individuals is a burden on the health care system. Therefore, there is a need to discover safe and effective therapies to improve not only lifespan, but healthy lifespan.

The ultimate goal of these studies, the researchers point out, is to develop safe and effective therapies that target the biological processes at the root of aging-related disorders, not just their symptoms. Indeed, natural products provide a rich and invaluable source for the discovery of new therapeutic approaches.

The study was made possible by funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions grant to the University of Padua, a contribution from the pharmaceutical company IBSA, and a Synergy grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

A follow-up project based on these results is already underway in collaboration with IBSA (Institut Biochimique SA) at the Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale in Lugano to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Haenkenium as a nutraceutical on healthy subjects.

The study, "Targeting senescence induced by age or chemotherapy by a polyphenol-rich natural extract extends lifespan and healthspan in mice."

Link to the research: https://www.nature.com/articles/s43587-024-00663-7