Scientists across the world have been working on ways to stop or slow the aging process. Some ambitious projects have also tried to find out ways to reverse the aging process. While reversing the aging process may be only within the realm of imagination, slowing the aging process might be possible.
A recent study offers encouraging evidence that aging process can be slowed down. It is being hailed as a big first step by the scientific community. Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, FL, and at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, have identified a new class of drugs that can improve cardiac function, reduce frailty symptoms and can actually prolong the healthy lifespan of mice. The findings of the study have been published in the Aging Cell.
The new class of drugs is being called ‘senolytics’. According to the scientists who worked on the tests of the mice, senolytics have the ability to increase the healthy lifespan of patients and slow the aging process.
According to the study, aging is aggravated by senescent cells. These cells are much like cancer cells which stop regenerating and then secrete proteins which eventually damage the healthier cells around it. In other words, one senescent cell that gets old and doesn’t regenerate anymore can secrete proteins which will damage all its neighboring cells which are otherwise healthy and possibly are regenerating. These senescent cells are also responsible for many diseases associated with old age.
Prof. Paul Robbins and Dr. Laura Niedernhofer who led the research team at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) wanted to find a way to get rid of these senescent cells or to kill them without harming or causing any damage to the surrounding healthier cells. Getting rid of the senescent cells can avoid the secretion of proteins that can damage healthier cells. Any cell would eventually die but as with cancer cells, senescent are resistive to apoptosis, or cell death.
Hence, it was important to look into ways that could trigger apoptosis in these cells.
In an attempt to find the drugs that could do so, the research team tested a cancer drug called dasatinib and an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory supplement called quercetin, both of which triggered apoptosis in the senescent cells of the mice.
If these drugs have the same desired impact in humans and without any side effects then this is a giant leap towards slowing the aging process.