Hyderabad: Rasyanas, mentioned in the ancient Ayurvedic texts, Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita, are capable of fighting ageing and increasing longevity, according to a pioneering experiment on the common fruit fly, Drosophila.
Drosophila and human beings share 13,601 common genes and most of the experimental results obtained from the fruit fly can be extrapolated on man. Ayurveda doctors at the Government Ayurveda Medical College, Mysore, have proved that the life span of Drosophila can be extended by almost half through administration of Ayurvedic rasayana. Doctors from Uppsala University, Sweden, also collaborated in the work.
The life span of Drosophila melanogaster increased between 51 and 55 per cent when it was fed with a standard rasayana preparation, suitably adapted for insects.
A Drosophila fly normal lives for minimum of 40 days to maximum of 53 days. In the experiment, the life span of the fruit fly shot up to 81 days to 91 days. Every fruit fly fed with Ayurveda rasayana had an increased life span of minimum 28 days.
"Rasayana forms the seventh of eight subdivisions of Ayurveda's earliest extant text, Charaka Samhita. Sushruta also describes rasayanas as "reversing naturally occurring senility" (swabhava vyadhi nivarana) and so "preventing death" (marana nivarana), further indicating that rasayanas are considered "special herbal formulations" (vishishtaoushadhi chintaka) conceived through prolonged consideration of their components' detailed properties," Dr S Priyadarshini pointed out.
Drosophila is one of a small number of organisms favoured for human-related ageing research. Few chromosomes in a small genome, with large numbers of spontaneous and induced mutations, make it well-suited to such work. Interestingly, the human Xist gene and the analogous Drosophila Sxl gene both control sex determination, and may both be involved in regulating life span.
Ayurveda Rasayana tantra describes techniques providing multidimensional solutions to ageing, premature ageing, and their complications. Its rasayana division, also known as jarachikitsa, has been practised as long as Ayurveda has been recorded.
"We reason that if it could extend D. melanogaster's life span, the same formula with insect changes reversed out would be of similar benefit to humans. In reality, the experiment constitutes an in principle test of the whole subject of rasayana, in particular the validity of applying it to animal models like D. melanogaster," Dr Priyadarshini said.
The pioneering study has also revealed that Ayurvedic formulations can be tested on Drosophila before they are extrapolated on human beings. It has also opened new avenues to investigate Ayurvedic complex issues like synergy between components, and overall mechanisms of complex formulations.