New Class of Drug Slows Aging in Mice

 

New Class of Drugs Slows Aging

New Class of Drug Slows Aging

Researchers identify a new class of drug, coined senolytics, that extends the healthy lifespan of mice.

New drugs and treatments for common ailments affecting us in old age have increased not only the mean lifespan but also our quality of life. Technology can extend our lives but growing old still means frailty and susceptibility to disease. This frailty stems from the fact that our cells can’t divide indefinitely, they enter senescence, where cells simply stop dividing but remain alive. Now new research from Scripps Research Institute have identified a new class of drugs coined “senolytics”, that slows the aging process by killing senescent cells extending healthy lifespan.

New Class of Drug Slows Aging

The new research was published March 9 online ahead of print by the journal Aging Cell.

“We view this study as a big, first step toward developing treatments that can be given safely to patients to extend healthspan or to treat age-related diseases and disorders,” said TSRI Professor Paul Robbins, PhD

As we age the cells in our body “run out” of cell divisions leading to a larger and larger population of senescent cells. Earlier research have found that killing these senescent cells result in longer healthspans (time free of disease). If it was possible to target senescent cells without damaging normal healthy cells, people could live longer while still remaining healthy.

Senescent cells are hard to kill. The cells resist apoptosis, programmed cell death, by increasing expression of pro-survival networks of genes. In this study researchers target key nodes of these pro-survival networks with drug to specifically kill senescent cells leaving normal healthy cells unharmed.

To target these nodes researchers used two drugs, the cancer drug dasatinib, and the supplement quercetin,on human cell cultures. Both of these drugs were able to initiate apoptosis in senescent cells, but were effective on different cell types. Treating cells with both drugs simultaneously was the most effective way to trigger cell death in senescent cells thereby slowing aging.

Next, researchers studied how the drugs affected health and aging in mice.

The effect of the drugs was remarkable, after only a single dose cardiovascular function improved . A combination treatment of both drugs also improved exercise capacity in mice weakened by radiation therapy, aged naturally or affected by a genetic disease that accelerate aging. The effect of the drugs lasted at least seven months after treatment. In mice given the drug periodically researchers observed extended lifespan by  the delay of age-related symptoms.

“In animal models, the compounds improved cardiovascular function and exercise endurance, reduced osteoporosis and frailty, and extended healthspan,” said Niedernhofer, whose animal models of accelerated aging were used extensively in the study. “Remarkably, in some cases, these drugs did so with only a single course of treatment.”

More testing is needed before researchers can test senolytics in people but the researchers remain optimistic about this new class of drugs since many age-related diseases are caused by senescent cells.

Image credit: Vinoth Chandar via flickr.com, CC BY 2.0