An international team of researchers have identified a new method for clearing senescent cells, which could transform treatments for ageing and related conditions.
Health scientists based at the University of Leicester collaborated with researchers from Universitat Oberta de Catalunya in Spain, Cross River University of Technology in Nigeria, Umm Al-Qura University in Saudi Arabia, and pharmaceutical company Abzena to develop targeted clearance of senescent cells using a pioneering antibody treatment.
Cellular senescence is an irreversible phenomenon which occurs when the natural process of cell division ceases in human tissue. It is thought to contribute to the development of ageing itself, as well as various ageing-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers.
It is known that, in lab specimens, clearing senescent cells from tissues slows age-related degeneration and prolongs lifespan. The challenge is to find a way to do this in humans.
Researchers have now devised a new method for removing build-ups of these senescent cells, using antibodies as ‘smart bombs’ designed to recognise and kill them. A so-called antibody-drug conjugate (an antibody loaded with a drug) was designed against a membrane marker of senescent cells, previously described by the authors, and was shown to be effective at specifically eliminate them.
Dr Salvador Macip, Associate Professor and head of the Mechanisms of Cancer and Ageing Laboratory at the University of Leicester and corresponding author for the study, said:
“Senolytics are a new class of drugs with great potential to ameliorate ageing.
“However, the ones we have found so far are quite unspecific and thus may have strong side effects. That is why there is much interest in a second generation of drugs, the targeted senolytics, which should eliminate senescent cells without affecting the rest.
“Copying an idea already in use in cancer therapies, we tweaked an antibody so it could recognise these cells and deliver a toxic cargo specifically into them.”
The results of this proof-of-concept study will now be used as the basis for further studies of targeted treatments of senescence, which could represent a huge improvement in the treatment of ageing ailments.
‘Targeted clearance of senescent cells using an antibody-drug conjugate against a specific membrane marker’ is published in Scientific Reports.