Researchers from the Mayo Clinic have identified a new target in the battle against dementia and age-related cognitive decline – zombie cells. More formally known as senescent cells, these are cells that have stopped dividing but don’t die, and tend to accumulate with age. The new research reveals that many pathological signs of neurodegenerative disease can be eliminated by removing these cells from the brain.
Senescent cells have been a hot area in anti-aging research over the past few years. Many scientists have been examining how the accumulation of these stagnant cells can be a fundamental trait of many age-related diseases. Prior work from the Mayo Clinic team in 2016 revealed a novel compound designed to eliminate senescent cells in mice resulted in the animals living longer and displaying reduced inflammation in fat, muscle and kidney tissue.
The latest study set out to examine the role of senescent cells in the progression of neurodegenerative disease. The team experimented with two different methods to clear senescent cells in mouse models. One method utilized a genetically engineered mouse designed to imitate Alzheimer’s disease pathology by producing tangles of tau proteins in their neurons. This mouse model was subsequently engineered to be able to effectively clear senescent cells from its system when a specific chemical trigger was introduced.