A group of researchers has designed an antibody with very special characteristics. It acts like a smart bomb that recognizes specific proteins on the surface of senescent cells and removes them without affecting the rest, minimizing potential side effects.
In summary? An antibody against cellular aging.
The results of this extraordinary work, published in Scientific Reports, pave the way for the development of effective treatments to delay the progress of age-related diseases and even the long-term cellular aging process itself. The goal is to increase the longevity and, above all, the quality of life of people at this stage of their life.
We have, for the first time, an antibody base that can be used to help slow down cellular aging and senescence in humansSalvador Macip, study leader and researcher at the University of Leicester
"We based this work on existing cancer therapies," Macip explains. "Therapies that target specific proteins present on the surface of cancer cells. We have also applied the same strategy to senescent cells."
All living organisms have a mechanism known as cellular aging (or senescence) which stops the division of damaged cells and removes them to prevent them from reproducing. This mechanism helps slow the progression of cancer, for example, as well as aiding the tissue in the development stage of the embryo. However, despite being a beneficial biological mechanism, it contributes to the development of diseases in old age. It appears that this is because the immune system is no longer able to efficiently remove these senescent cells. This is how with cellular aging these cells gradually accumulate in the tissues and negatively affect their functioning.
Previous laboratory experiments with animal models have shown that elimination of these senescent cells successfully delayed disease progress and age-associated decline. From these arose a class of drugs known as senolytics, which have attracted the attention of laboratories around the world. Their mass spread, however, is hampered by their lack of specificity and side effects.
A "missile" against old age
The drug designed by Macip and his team is a second generation senolytic. Unlike the current ones, it has high specificity and the possibility of controlling its administration. The Leicester researchers built on the results of a previous study that examined the "surfaceome," the proteins on the surface of the cell, to identify those found only in senescent cells.
They then used a monoclonal antibody trained to recognize senescent cells and attach themselves to them. "Just as our antibodies recognize germs and protect us from them, we designed these antibodies to recognize old cells. And to destroy them, we equipped these antibodies with a toxic load, as if they were guided missiles," says Macip.
The "silver bullet" against cellular aging could be "fired" when the first symptoms of disease appear, such as Alzheimer's, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's, arthritis, cataracts or some cancers. In the longer term, the researchers believe it could be used as part of a protocol that improves aging and extends healthy lifespans.