What are Senolytics?
Senolytics is a new field looking at interventions that can specifically clear out senescent cells to overcome age related impairments. These solutions seek to help reduce chronic inflammation, help restore balance in the body and even improve organ function (i.e. heart, kidneys, etc). While the field is still very new, it holds great promise for unlocking a better way to age in the future.
Merriam-Webster defines senescence as the state of being old or the process of becoming old. So, it’s not surprising that scientists studying ways to improve longevity and health span have begun to focus on senescent cells.
Cells can become senescent for several reasons and not all of them are bad. But when these cells start to accumulate, they can have a detrimental effect on your overall health and how your immune system functions.
What are Senescent Cells?
Cellular Senescence refers to cells that can no longer divide and replicate, and no longer participate in the normal functions of an organ. The body’s immune system will target these cells to clean them out.
When it’s working properly, there are several benefits to the process of normal cells becoming senescent cells. This includes the ability to prevent the spread of certain carcinogenic cells, stop the replication of damaged cells and also support the overall wound healing process. But these cells become problematic when they accumulate, as occurs during normal aging, and can contribute to the worsening of several age-related conditions.
Senescent cells produce signals that create a pro-inflammatory environment causing systemic inflammation, like a chronic low-grade fever, which can be detrimental to the body if uncontrolled. Even worse, these cells can influence neighboring cells to become senescent, which can exacerbate the impact.
As senescent cells accumulate, some can become resistant to the process by which they are removed, and an accumulation of senescent cells may also blunt the normal immune response.
One recent animal study in which senescent cells were transplanted into lean middle age mice showed that senescent cells caused frailty and an early onset of aging associated diseases. Another study, by Dr Eric Verdin of the Buck Institute on Aging, demonstrated that as senescent cells accumulate, they summon NAD consuming inflammatory cells, which leads to a decrease in tissue NAD levels.
In other words, senescent cells are among the key factors that cause an age-related decline of cellular levels of NAD+, an important cellular co-factor for energy production in mitochondria.