Researchers at Mayo Clinic have discovered a new tactic to delay age-related disorders.
ScienceDaily — Researchers at Mayo Clinic have shown that eliminating cells that accumulate with age could prevent or delay the onset of age-related disorders and disabilities. The study, performed in mouse models, provides the first evidence that these "deadbeat" cells could contribute to aging and suggests a way to help people stay healthier as they age.
The findings appear in the journal Nature, along with an independent commentary on the discovery.
"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," says co-author 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. "There is potential for a fundamental change in the way we provide treatment for chronic diseases in older people."
Five decades ago, scientists discovered that cells undergo a limited number of divisions before they stop dividing. At that point the cells reach a state of limbo -- called cellular senescence -- where they neither die nor continue to multiply. They produce factors that damage adjacent cells and cause tissue inflammation. This alternative cell fate is believed to be a mechanism to prevent runaway cell growth and the spread of cancer. The immune system sweeps out these dysfunctional cells on a regular basis, but over time becomes less effective at "keeping house."
As a result, senescent cells accumulate with age. Whether and how these cells cause age-related diseases and dysfunction has been a major open question in the field of aging. One reason the question has been so difficult to answer is that the numbers of senescent cells are quite limited and comprise at most only 10 to 15 percent of cells in an elderly individual.