Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School recently reached an important new conclusion about the link between the characteristics of cells in the human body and human lifespan which could help shape future longevity treatments. Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers found that cells known as senescent immune cells pose the greatest challenge to human longevity.
A senescent cell is one that has been damaged or subject to stress. The amount of these cells increases in the human body as we grow older, stimulating inflammation and the aging process. They also play a role in the onset of age-related diseases. The Minnesota researchers have now determined that it is senescent immune cells, in particular, which are the most damaging. These cells cause tissue to deteriorate all over the body, and can reduce an individual’s lifespan.
The researchers argue that because of their damaging effects, medical treatment aimed at extending lifespans and avoiding health issues in old age should target these senescent immune cells. In particular, they believe they should be treated with senolytic drugs, which are capable of removing certain senescent cells from the body. However, these drugs can only be used to treat one type of cell at a time.
The researchers therefore hope to use their findings to begin developing senolytic drugs capable of targeting senescent immune cells, which in turn could produce a potentially effective treatment for combatting age-related disease and extending life. The pinpointing of senescent immune cells should also help them to identify individuals who are more vulnerable to tissue damage and rapid aging, which will ultimately help to provide treatment with senolytic drugs to those who most need it.