Health Buzz: This Group of Drugs Is Trying to Help You Age HealthilySeptember 16, 2017
The drugs in question are known as senolytic agents that target senescent cells – cells that have stopped dividing and started secreting toxic chemicals, thus hurting nearby cells. These cells add up as people age and are linked to conditions like diabetes, dementia and most cancers. (Getty Images)
Someday, aging and developing chronic diseases might not be so synonymous. At least that’s what Mayo Clinic researchers are hoping to change.
They say if certain drugs – which have already been proven to help animals age healthily – could prove safe and effective for humans, they could halt or delay such diseases all at the same time, according to a review article published Monday in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The drugs in question are known as senolytic agents that target senescent cells – cells that have stopped dividing and started secreting toxic chemicals, thus hurting nearby cells. These cells add up as people age and are linked to conditions like diabetes, dementia and most cancers.
Mayo Clinic researchers were the first to create senolytic drugs to go after these cells and published their efforts in Nature Communications. Now they’re looking at the challenges ahead as they move toward clinical trials.
And what could those clinical trials look like?
Study author Dr. James Kirkland, director of the Kogod Center on Aging at the Mayo Clinic, told CNN they might involve testing whether the drugs could aid older adults with frailty or treat diseases linked to chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
The possibilities don’t stop there. “One possible clinical trial strategy is to test this class of drugs in an age-related disease, such as neurodegeneration, like Parkinson’s disease, to see if it can reduce clinical severity of the disease and improve tissue functions,” Dr. Kang Zhang, founding director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at the University of California-San Diego, told CNN. Zhang did not work on the paper.
One caveat to keep in mind is that not every development will prove fruitful – or timely. “I think it’s important to recognize that a drug discovery is among the most important of all human activities … but it takes time, and there must be a recognition of that, and it takes patience,” Unity Biotechnology’s president, Nathaniel David, told CNN. His company is striving to pioneer the finding that taking out senescent cells could mean curing human diseases.