Pioneering New Cell Treatment Could Combat Aging

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 that occurs when the natural process of cell division ceases in human tissue. It is thought to contribute to the development of aging itself, as well as various aging-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 recognize 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 aging.

“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 recognize 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 aging ailments.

Reference: “Targeted clearance of senescent cells using an antibody-drug conjugate against a specific membrane marker” by Marta Poblocka, Akang Leonard Bassey, Victoria M. Smith, Marta Falcicchio, Ana Sousa Manso, Mohammad Althubiti, XiaoBo Sheng, Andrew Kyle, Ruth Barber, Mark Frigerio and Salvador Macip, 13 October 2021, Scientific Reports.

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