Posted on May 15, 2019, 4 p.m.
Senescent cells have been dubbed as being zombie cells as they refuse to die and can cause damage to surrounding tissues and other cells.
As these zombie cells continue to accumulate in the body it is suggested that they promote aging and age related diseases, as such around the globe researchers are working to find drugs that can effectively clear or kill these zombie cells, which may very possibly treat the problems that they are suggested to bring about.
Finding a solution to zombie cells is basically trying to fight aging itself, based on studies, which will hopefully in turn delay the appearance of age related diseases and disabilities as a group rather than trying to treat one disease at a time.
Zombie cells once were normal but have encountered stress such as damage to their DNA or viral infection, which at that point a cell will either die or become a senescent zombie cell by entering a kind of state of suspended animation. Problem being when this happens the cells don’t die to be cleared away, rather they accumulate while releasing chemicals that can harm nearby normal cells.
Senolytics are showing great promise in animal studies at improving a list of conditions such as diabetes, kidney problems, clogged arteries, Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts, osteoporosis, and age related loss of muscle. Animal studies have also shown a direct link between aging and these harmful zombie cells. Using drugs that target these cells has been shown to improve animal walking speed, grip strength, and endurance as well as extended lifespan by on average 36% even when treatment was applied to aged animals.
Transplanting these zombie cells into younger animals has been shown to make them appear to be older, walking slowed down, muscle strength declined, and endurance decreased; testing showed that the implanted zombie cells had converted other cells into zombie cells.
For the first time Dr. James Kirkland of the Mayo Clinic and colleagues have published the first study of a treatment for scenscent zombie cells in humans this year which involved 14 patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. This disease is generally fatal and scars linings of the lungs, risk increases with age; lungs of the participants displayed evidence of zombie cells.
Patients were observed to have had improved on some measure of physical fitness such as speed, but not all measures showed improvements after only three weeks of treatment. However overall the results were encouraging enough to warrant further and more rigorous investigational studies.
The field of senescent cells is emerging, at least a dozen companies have formed or launched efforts in pursuit of treatments for these harmful zombie cells, such drugs may also be useful for treating premature aging among cancer survivors that brings about early appearance of some diseases.
Some of the drugs being tested are not new and have been approved for other uses, however the best drugs may still need to be developed. The main goal is not to prevent cells from turning zombie, rather to trigger the death of these already transformed cells or limit the harm they can do.
As for using these drugs to healthy people who wish to ward off aging, it appears as if it is possible. But that will likely be a ways off yet, it can take several years to take a drug through the process of trials to establish they are safe before they can be submitted for approval.
Animal studies have demonstrated very compelling results, and now human studies are also showing promising results. Targeting zombie cells appears to be playing a role in the overall effort to delay, stop, and possibly even reverse aging, there is enough research suggesting that zombie cells promote aging that it should be true. What an exciting time this is indeed.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement