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Onset of Age-related Disability and Disorders Could be Delayed or Prevented

Author: Mayo Clinic

Published: 2011-12-24


Onset of age related disorders and disabilities could be delayed or prevented by eliminating senescent cells that are no longer dividing.

Main Digest

The editors of the journal Science have selected a Mayo Clinic discovery as one of their top 10 groundbreaking scientific achievements of 2011.

Senescence - The word senescence is derived from the Latin word senex, meaning old man, old age, or advanced in age. Also known as biological aging senescence is the change in the biology of an organism as it ages after its maturity. Such changes range from those affecting its cells and their function to those affecting the whole organism. There are a number of theories as to why senescence occurs; for example, some posit it is programmed by gene expression changes, others that it is the cumulative damage caused by biological processes. Senescence is not the inevitable fate of all organisms. A variety of organisms, including some cold-blooded animals, have negligible senescence. This fact, and recent scientific successes in rejuvenation and extending the lifespan of model animals have inspired hope that aging may similarly be canceled, reversed or at least significantly delayed in humans.

The Mayo study - the first to eliminate the effects of aging in mice - received worldwide attention when it was published in Nature in November. Science's international list of achievements featuring scientific breakthroughs ranging from biology to aerospace research was released Thursday afternoon.

The study showed that the onset of age-related disorders and disabilities could be delayed or prevented by eliminating senescent cells: cells that have become "deadbeat" and are no longer dividing.

"This is indeed an honor, coming from Science in particular," says Jan van Deursen, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic molecular biologist and senior author of the study. "We're pleased for this recognition for our team and collaborators, including the Mayo Clinic Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging."

The Science editors expressed enthusiasm that "mice whose bodies were cleared of these loitering cells didn't live longer than their untreated cage-mates - but they did seem to live better, which provided researchers with some hope that banishing senescent cells might also prolong our golden years."

"Our discovery demonstrates that, in our body, cells are accumulating that cause these age-related disorders and discomforts," says Dr. van Deursen, the Vita Valley Professor of Cellular Senescence at Mayo Clinic. "Therapeutic interventions to get rid of senescent cells or block their effects may represent an avenue to make us feel more vital, healthier, and allow us to stay independent for a much longer time."

The research is an important step in the quest to improve health-span - not necessarily living a longer life, but a healthier, more productive one.

Co-authors of the article are Darren Baker, Ph.D., Tamar Tchkonia, Ph.D., Nathan LeBrasseur, Ph.D., James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., and Bennett Childs, all of Mayo Clinic; and Tobias Wijshake and Bart van de Sluis, Ph.D., both of Groningen University, the Netherlands.

The Ellison Medical Foundation, the Noaber Foundation, the Mayo Clinic Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging and the National Institutes of Health funded the study.

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