Researchers from Japan have succeeded in developing a vaccine that leads to the elimination of so-called senescent cells or can even prevent them from accumulating in the first place. The results are particularly interesting for prevention or at least reducing age-related issues. The study was published in the journal Nature Aging.
The elimination of zombie cells as a prevention
Senescent cells are also known as zombie cells because they do not die in the body. But they also do not multiply. German website Fachmedien und Mittelstandn explained why their presence can be problematic:
In medicine, senescent cells are associated with ageing and various diseases of ageing. For example, the zombie cells can cause inflammation and release chemicals in neighbouring healthy cells.
They are primarily caused by the wear and tear of the genetic material that occurs with every cell division.
According to Fachmedien und Mittelstandn, it has already been scientifically confirmed that ‘eliminating zombie cells can alleviate and even completely prevent some diseases’. Researchers from Juntendo University described how their vaccine works. The European Timessummarised the process as follows:
The scientists first identified a protein unique to these zombie cells and then developed a peptide vaccine that triggers an immune response to it.
Hope for those suffering from age-related diseases
The mice chosen for testing suffered from atherosclerosis. As per observation, after the vaccination, they significantly improved the artery condition called Coronary Artery Calcification. In addition, the vaccine helped to slow down the ageing process of the animals, while at the same time increasing their life expectancy. Professor Toru Minamino, who is part of the research team, claimed that the vaccine could have the same effect on humans. The Japan Times quoted Professor Minamino as saying:
We can assume that the vaccine can be used to treat atherosclerosis, diabetes and other age-related diseases.
Cellular senescence not the only feature of ageing. In addition to the accumulation of zombie cells, ageing humans also experience shortening of telomeres, genome instability, epigenetic changes, stem cell depletion and other biochemical signs of ageing. So attacking our senescent cells is only one aspect of the solution.