A research team from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), Mayo Clinic, and other institutions has identified a new class of drugs that, in animal models, dramatically slows the aging process—alleviating symptoms of frailty, improving cardiac function and extending a healthy lifespan. The new research was published online on March 9, 2015 in Aging Cell. The scientists coined the term “senolytics” for the new class of drugs. “We view this study as a big, first step toward developing treatments that can be given safely to patients to extend healthspan or to treat age-related diseases and disorders,” said TSRI Professor Paul Robbins, Ph.D., who, with Associate Professor Laura Niedernhofer, M.D., Ph.D., led the research efforts for the paper at TSRI Florida. “When senolytic agents, like the combination we identified, are used clinically, the results could be transformative.” “The prototypes of these senolytic agents have more than proven their ability to alleviate multiple characteristics associated with aging,” said Mayo Clinic Professor James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the new study. “It may eventually become feasible to delay, prevent, alleviate, or even reverse multiple chronic diseases and disabilities as a group, instead of just one at a time.” Senescent cells—cells that have stopped dividing—accumulate with age and accelerate the aging process. Because the “healthspan” (time free of disease) in mice is enhanced by killing off these cells, the scientists reasoned that finding treatments that accomplish this in humans could have tremendous potential. The scientists were faced with the question, though, of how to identify and target senescent cells without damaging other cells.
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