Pulse 77: Removing Senescent Cells Reduces Harmful Effects of Aging

21 August 2018
Giulio Prisco

Aged Hands

Aging starts in our cells, and those aging cells can hasten cellular senescence, leading to tissue dysfunction and related health impacts. University of Minnesota scientists have shown that senolytic drugs can mitigate the harmful effects of aging (see below).

“We’ve always thought of aging as a process, not a disease,” said Paul D. Robbins, Associate Director of the newly founded Institute on the Biology of Aging and Metabolism (iBAM). “But what if we can influence the impacts of aging at a cellular level to promote healthy aging? That’s what senolytics seeks to achieve.”

In related news, the University of Exeter scientists who led the discovery of new compounds able to reverse key aspects of aging in human cells, covered in the last issue of Pulse, have further explained their findings in an article published in The Conversation.

“We are hopeful that in using molecular tools such as this, we will be able to eventually remove senescent cells in living people, which may allow us to target multiple age-related diseases at once,” conclude the scientists. “This is some way in the future yet, but it’s an exciting start.”

Reversing the damage caused by aging cells. Researchers at University of Minnesota Medical School have shown that it’s possible to reverse the damage caused by aging cells. A study, published in Nature Medicine, shows there are types of small molecules called senolytics that can reverse the impact of aged, senescent cells. The researchers determined that treatment with senolytic drugs, able to eliminate senescent cells, can reverse physical dysfunction and actually extend lifespan even when used in aged animal models.

Chemical kills glioblastoma cancer cells. Researchers at the University of Leeds and other labs have found that a synthetic chemical, named KHS101, is able to cut the energy source of cancer cells from glioblastoma, leading to the death of the cells. Published in Science Translational Medicine, the research is believed to represent an important step forward in tackling this disease, which is one of the deadliest cancers, with a five-year survival rate of less than five per cent.

New chemical compound targets cells that lack anti-cancer gene. Scientists at University of Huddersfield have developed and tested a new chemical compound with the potential to destroy hard-to-treat cancer cells. The compound, which contains the rare metal ruthenium, is generating exciting results in the laboratory, as shown by a research paper published in Angewande Chemie. While the compound can target and destroy cells that lack the gene p53, which protects normal cells from abnormalities and DNA damage, it causes remarkably little harm to healthy cells, meaning that the side effects traditionally associated with chemotherapy would potentially be significantly reduced.

Mathematical models for gene circuits in synthetic biology. Researchers at Rice University and the University of Houston have developed mathematical models to predict the performance of multi-input synthetic biological circuits that can be used to engineer bacteria and other organisms to regulate cellular systems or perform functions they wouldn't in nature. Potential applications of the research, described in a study published in ACS Synthetic Biology, include biological sensing, chemical production and therapeutics such as probiotics to alter gut bacteria.

Stretchable electronics for health monitoring. Bioengineers at UC San Diego and other labs have built a stretchable electronic patch that can be worn on the skin like a bandage and used to wirelessly monitor a variety of physical and electrical signals, from respiration, to body motion, to temperature, to eye movement, to heart and brain activity. A research paper published in Nature Electronics describes the new flexible health monitoring device, which consists of four layers of interconnected stretchable, flexible circuit boards.

Slowing the growth of intractable cancers. Researchers at UC San Francisco and Revolution Medicines, Inc, have identified a new strategy for potentially treating some intractable cancers. The research results, published in Nature Cell Biology, indicate that an experimental compound recently discovered by Revolution Medicines interferes with a signaling pathway for cancer growth, and dramatically slowed cancer growth in lung, skin, colon and pancreatic cancer cell lines as well as human lung cancers grown in animal models. Based on these results, Revolution Medicines aims to rapidly advance this approach into clinical trials on human patients using a proprietary drug candidate called RMC-4630.

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