Researchers at the Mayo Clinic believe that if tested successfully on humans, a new type of drug could delay or even prevent age-related chronic conditions such as dementia, heart disease or even arthritis.
Known as senolytic agents, these drugs target the senescent cells in the body. These are cells that have essentially ceased to function properly which means that not only have they stopped dividing but have also started secreting toxic chemicals, potentially harming other cells.
As we get older, we end up with more and more of these senescent cells in our body. It’s this build-up of cells that we know are associated with age-releated conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions, most cancers and of course dementia.
What researchers at the Mayo Clinic’s Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging have done is create a series of drugs that target, and then remove these harmful cells while leaving our healthy cells untouched.
In a paper published in Nature Communications the team, led by James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D, describe a new screening process that can effectively find even more of these drugs that we know will target senescent cells.
“We’ve moved rapidly in the last few years, and it’s increasingly looking like senolytic drugs, including the recently discovered HSP90 inhibitors, are having an impact on a huge range of diseases,” explains Kirkland.
Now of course the major problem here is that while they’ve seen extremely positive results in animal tests, it’s very difficult to create a clinical trial that works effectively with humans.
Why? Well it’s quite simply a matter of time. As the team point out in their paper there are difficulties when it comes to testing because a human’s life-span is considerably longer than most animals.
Instead the team have been targeting diseases and conditions where they know there’s a specific build-up of these senescent cells and looking at the result in a far more targeted environment.
If they can find a successful model for clinical trials involving humans then Dr. Kirkland is positive about the outcome.
“The emerging repertoire of senolytic drugs shows that they are having an impact on a huge range of diseases,” says Dr. Kirkland.
“Our goal is to achieve the same success in humans as we have in preclinical animal models in efforts to prevent or delay the conditions associated with aging.”