Ageing damage passes through cells, a process known as cellular senescence, eventually leading to tissue dysfunction and related health impacts – or more simply put, getting old. However, researchers have discovered a way to reverse this ageing process in the cells which could lead to healthier and longer lives. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic, an anti-ageing research centre in Minnesota, have discovered that these senescent cells – otherwise known as zombie cells as they no longer work to their full potential – can be washed away from the body after being targeted by drugs.
These senescent cells are then replaced by newer cells which can help slow down the ageing process.
The experimental trial was conducted over the course of three weeks on 14 elderly people who showed improvements in their walking speed, cognitive abilities but most importantly it proved that the drug was safe.
Senior study author Dr James Kirkland said: “This is like a glimmer that it might actually work. The results were impressive. All 14 got better in their functional ability.
“We know there are at least 20 serious conditions that senescent cells are implicated in. We’re starting with the most serious, but then we hope to move on to the rest. The same approach should work in multiple diseases.
“This is simply the start of human studies. We don’t know what lies ahead and full trials are now ongoing.
“So at the moment it’s baby steps, but those baby steps are moving quickly.”
The treatment, named DQ, combined a drug called dasatnib, which is designed to kill cancerous cells in leukaemia, with quercetin – a plant pigment which is common in red wine, green tea and several fruits and berries.
Within 30 minutes, the treatment began to kill the senescent cells, and after 24 hours they were all gone, according to the research published in The Lancet online journal EBioMedicine.
Dr Kirkland added: “It has a hit-and-run effect.
“The drug starts working quickly and we would ideally like to be able to give it just once a month.”