Anti-Aging Drugs Are Being Tested That May Help Us Live to 120
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, are calling for senolytic drugs to make the leap from animal research to human clinical trials. Senescence refers to biological aging and senolytic drugs are designed to selectively kill the cells that cause aging. As we age, we accumulate senescent cells, which are damaged cells that resist dying off but stay in our bodies. They can affect other cells in our organs and tissues. Senescent cells play a role in many age-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, most cancers, dementia, arthritis, osteoporosis and blindness.
The paper outlined potential clinical trial scenarios and was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. “This is one of the most exciting fields in all of medicine or science at the moment,” said Dr. James Kirkland, director of the Kogod Center on Aging at the Mayo Clinic and lead author of the new paper.
In 2015, scientists from The Scripps Research Institute and the Mayo Clinic identified this new class of drugs. The study described how senolytic drugs alleviate symptoms of frailty in mice and extend the length of time the mice are healthy as they grow old.
A year later, the group demonstrated that clearing senescent cells in mice can improve their vascular health. Fourteen senolytic drugs have been discovered and are being actively studied.
Scientists have long known that certain processes influence our body’s aging on the cellular level, including inflammation, changes in your DNA, cell damage and the accumulation of senescent cells. It turns out that those processes are linked. For instance, DNA damage causes increased senescent cell accumulation. However, recent research has uncovered a number of molecular mechanisms implicated in aging. Scientists are exploiting these mechanisms to develop various anti-aging compounds. If successful it would mean that a person in their 70s would be as biologically healthy as a 50 year old and could usher in a new era of ‘geroscience’ where doctors would no longer fight individual conditions like cancer, diabetes and dementia, but instead treat the underlying mechanism causing the condition – aging.
The talk of taking this research to the human trial phase, would have been inconceivable 25 years ago. The objective of the move to human trials in the next 1-2 years, and to achieve the same success in humans as has been achieved in animal models by preventing or delaying the conditions associated with aging. If it is proven that these drugs can reduce senescent cells and rejuvenate tissues or organs, it may be one of our potential best treatments for age-related diseases.