New research suggests that we might have a completely new class of drugs that fight the one thing that we have not been able to fight: time itself.
Ok, so maybe these drugs don’t actually stop time, but they might target the process of aging; so maybe we can slow time a little.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) call this class of drugs “senolytics” and they are currently in animal trials. According to Mayo Clinic Kogod Center on Aging director, Dr. James Kirkland, “This is one of the most exciting fields in all of medicine or science at the moment.”
The lead author goes on to explain that as we age, the body accumulates these senescent cells. These are damaged cells that do not quite die off, but instead stay inside our bodies. Senescent cells, then, can negatively affect other cells in the organs and other tissues. Put two and two together and it quickly becomes apparent that senolytic drugs have the ability to kill senescent cells, perhaps before they can even start to affect your body’s healthy cells.
This is important because research shows that senescent cells play a significant role in many age-related chronic diseases including arthritis, blindness, cardiovascular disease, most cancers, dementia, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
In his practice, Kirkland commonly deals with patients who are sick with age-related conditions. He confides: “The same processes that cause aging seem to be the root causes of age-related diseases. Why not target the root cause of all of these things? That would have been a pipe dream until a few years back.”
In addition, UCSD Institute for Genomic Medicine founding director, Dr. Kang Zhang comments, “I think senolytic drugs have a great future. If it is proven that it can reduce senescent cells and rejuvenate tissues or organs, it may be one of our potential best treatments for age-related diseases.”
While he was not involved in the study, he notes that this could be a major leap forward. “So we will have to wait for clinical trials to see whether this would work in humans. 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.”
The study has been published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.