The study, carried out by researchers at the The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in Jupiter, FL and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, have discovered a new class of drugs, which have successfully targeted and killed cells responsible for aging.
The drugs are “called “senolytics,” which have been used to destroy senescent cells. When they stop dividing, these cells drive the aging process and accelerate ill-health among the elderly.
According to Medical News Today (MNT),
“They accumulate in various body tissues, secreting proteins that cause damage to surrounding healthy cells and tissues. Senescent cells speed up the aging process and play a significant role in the development of age-related diseases.”
Senescent cells behave in a similar way to cancer cells. They have so-called “pro-survival networks,” which allow them to avoid cell death. Therefore, the scientists had to find a way of simultaneously inducing apoptosis or self-programmed cell death, alongside the new treatment.
Earlier research on mice had already shown that destroying senescent cells could increase lifespan, but the problem was to also kill them without damaging surrounding cells in the process.
In order to overcome this, the researchers experimented on mice by targeting the senescent cells with two anti-cancer drugs – dasatinib (trade name Sprycel®) and quercetin, a natural supplement which is used as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory medication. Using them in tandem with senolytics was successful in destroying the cells without negative consequences.
The results were impressive. Science Daily quotes Associate Professor Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, who was one of the leaders of the study, as stating
“On testing a combination of the two drugs in mouse models, the team found they significantly improved cardiovascular function, boosted exercised endurance, reduced osteoporosis and frailty and dramatically extended the animals’ lifespan. Remarkably, in some cases, these drugs did so with only a single course of treatment.”
In a press release, Dr Niedernhofer and TSRI Professor Paul Robbins, PhD, who also played a leading role in the research said,
“We view this study as a big, first step toward developing treatments that can be given safely to patients to extend healthspan or to treat age-related diseases and disorders. When senolytic agents, like the combination we identified, are used clinically, the results could be transformative.”
The fact that the intervention was so effective after just one dose and had an effect on multiple age-related illnesses at the same time, is important. It means that the length of treatment for patients could be short and this would reduce the risk of side effects.
Although the team stressed the need for further tests on human beings, they were optimistic about the potential for the medication.
Professor James Kirkland, MD, PhD from the Mayo Clinic and the senior author of the study said,
“If translatable to humans – which makes sense as we were using human cells in many of the tests – this type of therapy could keep the effects of aging at bay and significantly extend the healthspan of patients.”
The study was published in the journal Aging Cell