Senescent cell treatment could combat age-related diseases

Scientists have developed a novel technique for the targeted clearance of senescent cells to improve treatments for ageing and other conditions.

Nurse holding elderly persons hand

A new study from the University of Leicester, UK, in collaboration with other universities, has identified a novel method for clearing senescent cells, which could transform treatments for ageing and related conditions.

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Cellular senescence is an irreversible phenomenon which occurs when the natural process of cell division ceases in human tissue and it is thought to contribute to the development of ageing itself, as well as various ageing-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes and various cancers. Studies have previously showed that, in lab specimens, clearing senescent cells from tissues slows age-related degeneration and prolongs lifespan. According to the team, the challenge is to find a way to do this in humans.

In this pre-clinical study, published in Scientific Reports, the researchers devised a new method for removing build-ups of these senescent cells, using antibodies as ‘smart bombs’ designed to recognise and kill them. An antibody-drug conjugate was then designed against a membrane marker of senescent cells, previously described by the authors and was shown to be effective at specifically eliminate them.

“Senolytics are a new class of drugs with great potential to ameliorate ageing,” explained corresponding author Dr Salvador Macip. “However, the ones we have found so far are quite unspecific and thus may have strong side effects. That is why there is much interest in a second generation of drugs, the targeted senolytics, which should eliminate senescent cells without affecting the rest. Copying an idea already in use in cancer therapies, we tweaked an antibody so it could recognise these cells and deliver a toxic cargo specifically into them.”

The researchers further stated that the results of this proof-of-concept study will now be used as the basis for further studies of targeted treatments of senescence, which could represent a huge improvement in the treatment of ageing ailments.