September 25, 2019
What does the search for the fountain of youth and zombies have in common – besides still being popular topics for movies and TV shows? It actually may surprise you.
The emerging field of senolytics explores the possibility of using drugs to target senescent cells in an effort to slow down the aging process so we can live longer, healthier lives.
Senescent cells are known as "zombie" cells because they not only shut down and stop producing new cells, they also turn healthy cells around them into zombie cells.
This cellular process increases as we age, causing inflammation and tissue damage. It is associated with age-related diseases such as macular degeneration, osteoarthritis, dementia, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Mice studies conducted by the Mayo Clinic have shown that reducing the number of senescent cells in the body by altering their genetics can eliminate some of the natural damage brought by aging.
One study, published in July 2018 in the journal Nature Medicine, found that increasing senescent cells in mice can cause premature aging. But when researchers administered a senolytic drug (comprised of dasatinib and quercetin), it reduced the number of senescent cells, cutting the mortality hazard to 65%.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic also saw similar results in human adipose tissue, which stores body fat.
Human trials are just starting, but some data is starting to trickle in.
Research published last February in the journal EBioMedicine found initial evidence that the dasatinib and guercetin cocktail alleviates physical dysfunction among patients with Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – lung scarring that gradually makes it more difficult to breathe. That opens the door for more studies.
Additionally, Unity Biotechnology, a biotech startup, recently released the results of a Phase 1 trial testing a new senolytic drug created to treat osteoarthritis of the knee. According to the data collected, the drug is safe, but its efficacy needs to be investigated further in later trials.
The development of senolytic drugs is an exciting area of research to keep your eye on. We may never find the secret to immortality, but senolytic drugs may be able to extend our life expectancy just a little bit longer while, perhaps most importantly, improving our quality of life.