Senescent cells are responsible for making you age. This cells are lurking in your heart, your liver, your kidneys, and maybe even your brain. The aging of the body can be slowed down if this aging cells are killed, according to a new study done in genetically engineered mice.
This experiment was done on mice in the laboratory, when the researchers used a drug to kill these kind of cells. Those mice lived longer, on average, than mice in which the cells had not been removed, the study found.
Now they are looking for a way how these results could be applied beyond these mice. The mice in the study had been genetically engineered so that the aging cells, and only those cells, would be killed by injecting the drug.
This experiment was successful for the mice because the drug only worked transgenic orgasms, and researchers “can’t make transgenic humans,” noted Christin Burd, an assistant professor of molecular genetics at The Ohio State University, who was not involved in the new study. In other words, it not clear whether the finding would hold true in people.
“This study is a big step toward validating the approach of targeting senescent cells,” says cell biologist Christian Sell of Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who wasn’t connected to the research.
If researchers can find a way to get rid of these cells in humans, “it can have some really huge impacts on health care,” she said.
The senescent cells are dysfunctional cells that have stopped dividing, and whose presence has been linked to age-dependent diseases.
The researchers managed to develop a genetically engineered mice. When the mice were in midlife (12 months old), the scientists started injecting the animals with a drug to kill off these cells. They also included a group of mice that were not injected with the drug, but were instead injected with a placebo solution.
It was shwon that the mice whose senescent cells had been killed lived longer. Their median life spans were increased by 24 to 27 percent, compared with those of the mice in the control group, according to the study, published today (Feb. 3) in the journal Nature.
They also found that the mice who were injected with the drug were slower to develop certain conditions related to aging, such as cataracts and deterioration of the kidneys and heart function, compared with those animals in the control group.
These findings “demonstrate that the removal of senescent cells does indeed delay aging and increase healthy life span,” Jesus Gil and Dominic Withers, both professors of clinical science at Imperial College London who were not involved in the study, wrote in a related editorial published in the journal.
But Gil and Withers also noted that senescent cells are involved in certain important processes such as wound healing. Although the new study suggests that the removal of these cells has limited side effects overall, “any future senescence-based therapies must take care to control for possible detrimental consequences,” Gil and Withers wrote.