As a person grows older, the number of ageing, or “senescent”, cells increases. These ageing cells fail to die off or multiply, as healthy cells should.
Technology developed in South Korea recently may change that. Researchers from the Department of Chemistry at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology can isolate ageing cells from healthy cells and remove them.
In the human body, ageing cells can spread inflammation and damage to other cells. The increase in the number of ageing cells — known as cellular senescence — has been connected to age-related conditions, including:
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
Declines in eyesight, mobility, and thinking ability.
The research focused on developing a technology that could precisely target and eliminate ageing cells, while sparing normal healthy cells.
“The selective removal of ageing cells, by targeting the mitochondria and inducing dysfunction, has been successfully demonstrated in our experiments,” lead researcher Professor Ja Hyoung Ryu said.
Researchers are confident their groundbreaking development will redefine the future of healthcare and usher in a new era of targeted therapeutic interventions.
The technology offers several advantages, including minimal toxicity concerns and a wide therapeutic window by specifically targeting organelles within cells. It opens up exciting possibilities for designing preclinical and clinical trials in the future.
The field of cellular senescence science, discovered in the early 1960s, has flourished in recent years. A wide range of research projects have sought to test forms of senolytics – meaning the removal of ageing cells – on mice, jellyfish, and 14 human participants with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Recent studies on older mice treated with senolytics have shown a reduction in mortality rates for those with COVID-19 infections.
This could provide valuable information on how treating cellular senescence and ageing cells may improve mortality rates in older individuals with COVID.