For years we all have been looking out for that wonder product that could reverse the signs of ageing or, could probably slow it down. Only if popping a pill could guarantee us longevity and younger looking personality. Well, as they say, that science and technology can have answers to some of the deepest of our questions and gravest woes ever. Taking a cue from that expression, there is news in which most of us will take joy. A team of experts have reached one step closer to developing drugs that can slow down the ageing process and can also aid in extending the lifespan.
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Experts from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), Mayo Clinic and other institutions have coined the term 'senolytics' for the new class of drugs that were tested in animal models to slow down the ageing process. The drugs alleviated symptoms of frailty, improved cardiac function and extended a healthy lifespan in animal models.
"We view this study as a big, first step toward developing treatments that can be given safely to patients to extend health span or to treat age-related diseases and disorders," said TSRI Professor Paul Robbins, who led the research at Scripps Florida.
"The prototypes of these 'senolytic' agents have more than proven their ability to alleviate multiple characteristics associated with ageing," said Mayo Clinic Professor James Kirkland, senior author of the study in the journal Aging Cell.
"It may eventually become feasible to delay, prevent, alleviate or even reverse multiple chronic diseases and disabilities as a group, instead of just one at a time," he said.
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A certain group of cells in our - Senescent cells - stop dividing and accumulate with age. This leads to an accelerated ageing process. The experts noted how destroying these cells led to an enhanced lifespan in mice modules. If the same can be mimicked in humans, it may yield similar results. However, the challenge was to ensure killing these cells without damaging other cells.
The team suspected that senescent cells' resistance to death by stress and damage could provide a clue.
The researchers found that, like cancer cells, senescent cells have increased expression of 'pro-survival networks' that help them resist apoptosis or programmed cell death. Using these criteria, the team homed in on two available compounds - the cancer drug dasatinib (sold under the trade name Sprycel) and quercetin, a natural compound sold as a supplement that acts as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.
Further testing in cell culture showed that these compounds selectively induce death of senescent cells. The two compounds had different strong points. Dasatinib eliminated senescent human fat cell progenitors, while quercetin was more effective against senescent human endothelial cells and mouse bone marrow stem cells.
A combination of the two was most effective overall. Next, the team looked at how these drugs affected health and ageing in mice.
"In animal models, the compounds improved cardiovascular function and exercise endurance. They reduced osteoporosis and frailty, and extended healthspan," said Niedernhofer. "Remarkably, in some cases, these drugs did so with only a single course of treatment," noted Niedernhofer.