Throughout history, there has always been a quest to extend our time here on earth through any means necessary. From the search for the fictional Fountain of Youth to modern medical miracles, the search for longevity is part of the human condition. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic believe that they have found an answer to the question of how to extend our lifespans, and their recent studies with mice have shown some interesting results.
The key to longevity in this recent study is a natural biological process that slows down as we get older. Every day, as our bodies natural go about their normal processes, we have cells that are constantly dividing and creating new cells. When these cells stop dividing they become what is known as a senescent cell. These cells accumulate in the body and can lead to tumor formation and the decline of organ tissue and function.
Dr. Jan van Deursen, Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular biology at Mayo Clinic, explains: “Cellular senescence is a biological mechanism that functions as an ’emergency brake’ used by damaged cells to stop dividing. While halting cell division of these cells is important for cancer prevention, it has been theorized that once the ’emergency brake’ has been pulled, these cells are no longer necessary.”
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Normally, our body’s immune system clear out these senescent cells, but over time, that process becomes less and less effective as we age. It is an accumulative process that is the essence of aging on a cellular level. The senescent cells cause damage to the cells around them and are more likely to develop tumors. These cells are also responsible for frailty and other age-related diseases.
The researchers at the Mayo clinic used a process in mice, in which they created a drug-induced elimination of senescent cells. By regulating the removal of senescent cells, the researchers were able to increase the lifespan of the mice by as much as 35%.
Dr. van Deursen said, “Senescent cells that accumulate with aging are largely bad, do bad things to your organs and tissues, and therefore, shorten your life but also the healthy phase of your life. And since you can eliminate the cells without negative side effects, it seems like therapies that will mimic our findings – or our genetic model that we used to eliminate the cells – like drugs or other compounds that can eliminate senescent cells would be useful for therapies against age-related disabilities or diseases or conditions.”
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Scientists are excited about the results of this study, which were published in Nature. Many of them believe that the removal of senescent cells from the body could be a real-life Fountain of Youth.