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Removing Old Cells Delay Age Related Disorders

11/03/2021 06:07 PM ET

Removing Old Cells - Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have concluded that removing old cells which accumulate with age could prevent or delay the onset of age-related disorders and disabilities.

The study, performed in mouse models, offers the first evidence that so-called “deadbeat” cells could contribute to aging.

“By attacking these cells and what they produce, one day we may be able to break the link between aging mechanisms and predisposition to diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancers and dementia,” explained James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., head of Mayo’s Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging and the Noaber Foundation Professor of Aging Research. 

Kirkland added, “There is potential for a fundamental change in the way we provide treatment for chronic diseases in older people.”

In the new study, the team bred mice to age quickly, getting cataracts, weakened muscles and loss of fat deposits by the time they are 10 months old, when they die of heart disease. At the mice’s 3-week birthdays, the researchers treated them with a drug that would cause their senescent cells to commit suicide, and they repeated this treatment every three days. Compared with the untreated mice that kept all their senescent cells, these drug-treated mice had stronger muscles, fewer cataracts and less wrinkled skin.

This alternative cell fate is believed to be a mechanism to prevent runaway cell growth and the spread of cancer. Although the immune system sweeps out these dysfunctional cells on a regular basis, it becomes less effective at “keeping house” over time. As a result, senescent cells accumulate with age.

“Our discovery demonstrates that in our body cells are accumulating that cause these age-related disorders and discomforts,” said Jan van Deursen, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic molecular biologist and the Vita Valley Professor of Cellular Senescence.

“Therapeutic interventions to get rid of senescent cells or block their effects may represent an avenue to make us feel more vital, healthier, and allow us to stay independent for a much longer time.”

The researchers concluded that lifelong elimination of senescent cells delayed the onset of age-related disorders such as cataracts and muscle loss and weakness. As such, removing “deadbeat” cells later in life could slow the progression of already established age-related disorders.

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