“Senolytics” are a new class of drugs that In animal models, dramatically slows the aging process—alleviating symptoms of frailty, improving cardiac function and extending a healthy lifespan.
The research, being done by teams from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), Mayo Clinic and other institutions appeared on March 9th in the journal Aging Cell.
Senescent cells are cells that have stopped dividing. They accumulate with age and accelerate the aging process.
Killing off these cells, increases the healthspan in mice, so scientists are hopeful about finding treatments that can have the same effect in humans.
Drug testing show that the cancer drug dasatinib (sold under the trade name Sprycel®) eliminated senescent human fat cell progenitors. Quercetin, a natural compound sold as a supplement that acts as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory, was more effective against senescent human endothelial cells (a single layer of smooth, thin cells that lines the heart, blood vessels and lymphatics) and mouse bone marrow stem cells. A combination of the two was most effective overall.
In old mice, cardiovascular function was improved within five days of a single dose of the drugs. A single dose of a combination of the drugs led to improved exercise capacity in animals weakened by radiation therapy used for cancer. The effect lasted for at least seven months following treatment with the drugs. Periodic drug administration of mice with accelerated aging extended the healthspan in the animals, delaying age-related symptoms, spine degeneration and osteoporosis.
“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, who with Associate Professor Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, led the research efforts for the paper at Scripps Florida. “When senolytic agents, like the combination we identified, are used clinically, the results could be transformative.”
The authors caution that more testing is needed before use in humans. They also note both drugs in the study have possible side effects, at least with long-term treatment.
The co-first authors of the study, “Achilles’ Heel of Senescent Cells: From Transcriptome to Senolytic Drugs,” are Yi Zhu and Tamara Tchkonia of the Mayo Clinic.