Targeting senescent cells is important for anti-aging

Written by Naamah Maundrell

Research demonstrates that the removal of senescent cells in mice leads to improved organ function, hair renewal and faster movement.

The removal of senescent cells could combat signs of aging. In an opinion published in Trends in Molecular Medicine, author Peter de Keizer (Erasmus University Medical Center; Rotterdam, The Netherlands) describes how senescent cells accumulate in mature tissue and secrete factors detrimental to tissue function, preventing tissue renewal as neighboring cells are in a stem-like state.

The research performed in rodents demonstrated that the removal of senescent cells caused senior mice to show faster movement and improved organ function, living 25% longer. de Keizer explained, “A perfect anti-senescence therapy would not only clear senescent cells, but also kick-start tissue rejuvenation by stimulating differentiation of nearby stem cells. This may be complementary with, for instance, the exciting approaches recently made in the field of transient expression of stem cell.” (sic)

However, further research is required to explore the translational effects in humans as well as identifying potential off-target effects, especially as senescent cells are known to play a role in wound healing. A major safety concern of anti-senescent drugs is the non-specific targeting of other pathways. If anti-senescent drugs are deemed safe, investigations into the most beneficial time for administration and the cost of therapy and off-target toxicity is essential.

“What if we have a brilliant anti-senescence treatment, then what?…how can we hit two birds with one stone anti-senescence and tissue rejuvenation? I would also advise caution for claiming too much, too soon about the benefits of the fast-growing list of therapeutic compounds that are being discovered. That being said, these are clearly very exciting times, and I am confident we will find applicable anti-senescence treatments that can counteract age-related pathologies” commented de Keizer.

de Keizer is progressing research into anti-senescent therapies and is hopeful that these drugs could block retired cell activities. Further research will explore whether anti-senescent drugs could be used to counteract signs of aging that have already manifested and whether they could completely deter age-related diseases.

Sources: de Keizer P. The Fountain of Youth by Targeting Senescent Cells? Trends in Molecular Medicine 23(1), 6-17 (2016);