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New Class of Drugs May Dramatically Increase Healthy Lifespan

First Posted: Mar 10, 2015 08:24 AM EDT
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A new class of drugs may be able to boost a person's healthy lifespan. Scientists have found that the new class of drugs dramatically slows the aging process in animals and alleviates symptoms of frailty by improving cardiac function and extending life.

"We view this study as a big, first step toward developing treatments that can be given safely to patients to extend lifespan or to treat age-related diseases and disorders," said Paul Robbins, one of the researchers, in a news release. "When snolytic agents, like the combination we identified, are used clinically, the results could be transformative."

Senescent cells, which are cells that have stopped dividing, accumulate with age and accelerate the aging process. Since the "healthspan" in mice is enhanced by killing off these cells, scientists decided to find out a way to target and identify senescent cells without damaging other cells. The resrearchers suspected that senescent cells' resistance to death by stress and damage could provide a clue. They used transcript analysis to find that, like cancer cells, senescent cells have increased expression of "pro-survival networks."

The researchers then honed in on two available compounds: the cancer drug, dasatinib, and quercetin, a natural supplement that acts as an antihistamine and nati-inflammatory. The researchers found these compounds selectively induce the death of senescent cells. Now, the researchers have called this new class of drugs "senolytics."

"In animal models, the compounds improved cardiovascular function and exercise endurance, reduced osteoporosis and frailty, and extended healthspan," said Laura Niedernhofer, one of the researchers. "Remarkably, in some cases, these drugs did so with only a single course of treatment."

While the drugs have only been tested in animals, future studies may make the drugs viable for humans. This could, in the future, be a treatment that could extend healthy years of life.

The findings are published in the journal Aging Cell.

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