Monday, November 28, 2011

Senescent Cells are Linked to Diseases Associated with Aging

Researchers have long been battling the effects of aging. Scientists hope to use the discovery of senescent cells to postpone many diseases that develop with age. Senescent cells are a category of cells that help promote aging of the tissues. Scientists hope that ridding the body of these senescent cells would protect against these diseases that develop as the body gets older. These senescent cells build up in aging tissues such as arthritic knees, cataracts, and the plaque that lines arteries.  The cells secrete agents that effect the immune system and causes inflammation. These senescent cells promote aging in the tissues that they accumulate in. A research team at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. has produced a strain of mouse in which all the senescent cells can purge with the use of a drug. These mice, without the presence of these senescent cells showed great improvement in the development of age related diseases. They did not develop cataracts, could exercise much longer, avoided the wasting away of muscle, and they retained the layer of fat that usually goes away which causes wrinkles. The mice should have also theoretically lived longer, however the type of mouse chosen for the experiment succumbed to heart attacks more readily at an early age, regardless of tissue. Researchers hope to devise ways to rid the body of the senescent cells but cannot use the same treatment used on the mice on people. Drugs already exist that combat some of the hormones secreted by the senescent cells. Many more tests are still needed to be done to understand senescent cells better, but the discovery that these cells drive the aging process is a big breakthrough in aging research.

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