Aging is a phase in life when more care and concern is required for all individuals. That is also the time when so many diseases haunt a person as a result of aging cells which may have incurred DNA damage.
Now a new study says flushing out retired cells from the body can rejuvenate the body. Senescent cells in the body are distinguished by their inability to divide and accumulate with old age. These dormant tissues also contribute to heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes.
The study is a harbinger to life-extending treatments. The research was done by a team of scholars at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands.
Led by senior author Peter de Keizer, the study had already obtained positive results when the molecule they developed was administered to mice.
The molecule developed by researchers selectively destroys senescent cells and showed encouraging results in mice with better kidney functioning and more stamina in the old rats. They are now looking whether the molecule will extend the lifespan of the tested rats before starting the trials in humans.
The drug administered to the genetically modified mice also stopped the plaque buildup in their arteries.
Rationale Of Removing Senescent Cells Through Drug
The senescent cells do have the power to develop a protective protein named p53 to annul the DNA damage. But that does not work because another protein FOXO4 engulfs it and blocks the functioning.
As an antidote, de Keizer and team designed a molecule that had a shortened version of FOXO4 that attaches to p53. It was noticed that the peptide developed by researchers thwarted FOXO4 and p53 from pairing up and forced the death of senescent cells and saved the healthy cells.
The selective killing of senescent cells is done by disrupting their chemical balance from within.
The study and the findings have been published in the journal Cell.
"It's definitely a landmark advance in the field," said cell and molecular biologist Francis Rodier of the University of Montreal in Canada who was not part of the study.
Consequences Of Removing Senescent Cells
James Kirkland, who is a diabetes researcher at the Mayo Clinic said peptides like the one de Keizer developed have limitations as the digestive system will destroy them. They can only be delivered through inhalation or injections.
He noted that the drug molecule could not cut down the number of platelets in mice. Also, the killing of senescent cells in bulk could trigger complications in groups like cancer patients.
The concerns are known to de Keizer and he said the forward steps will be with caution.
De Keizer is keen to see whether the molecule can kill cancer cells that share many similarities with senescent cells.
Future Scenario Of Doctors Treating Aging
The team of de Keizer will be watching out for the extended longevity of the treated mice. If they live longer, safety studies for humans will follow.
The ultimate goal is to know whether the drug can take out senescent cells and reverse age-related disorders.
"Maybe when you get to 65 you'll go every five years for your anti-senescence shot in the clinic. You'll go for your rejuvenation shot," he said.
He also predicted a future scenario in which aging will be treated by doctors directly rather than combating the diseases coming from old age.