Revolutionary approach to eradicate cellular aging!
The new strategy could restore homeostasis to target tissues and cells that play a role in age-related diseases.
As we age, senescent cells that have stopped dividing may accumulate but not die. These cells can lead to chronic inflammation, which in turn can contribute to the development of diseases such as cancer and various degenerative disorders.
Studies in mice have shown that removing senescent cells from tissues can restore their homeostasis and extend a healthy lifespan.
Now a team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of the founders of Mass General Brigham, has discovered that the immune response to a common virus in human tissue can detect and kill aging skin cells.
For the study, published in the journal Cell, scientists analyzed skin samples from young and old people to learn more about how to remove senescent cells in human tissues.
The researchers found more senescent cells in aging skin compared to younger skin samples. However, in older people’s samples, the number of senescent cells did not gradually increase as people got older, suggesting that some mechanism kicks in to keep them in check.
Experiments have shown that as a person gets older, certain immune cells called CD4+ killer T cells are responsible for preventing aging cells from multiplying. In fact, higher numbers of CD4+ killer T cells in tissue samples were associated with fewer senescent cells in aging skin.
When they assessed how CD4+ killer T cells control cell aging, the researchers found that senescent skin cells express a protein or antigen produced by human cytomegalovirus, a circulating herpes virus that causes a latent, lifelong infection in most people without any symptoms. By expressing this protein, senescent cells become targets for attack by CD4+ T-killer cells.
“Our study has shown that the immune response to human CMV contributes to the maintenance of homeostasis in aging organs. Most of us have CMV,” said author Sean Demery, MD, director of the High Risk Skin Cancer Clinic at MGH and assistant professor of clinical dermatology. at Harvard Medical School. As far as human cells are concerned, our immune system has evolved to eliminate cells, including senescent cells, that regulate the expression of CMV antigens.”
These findings, which highlight the beneficial function of viruses living in our body, could have many clinical applications.
“Our study provides a new therapeutic approach to eliminate senescent cells by enhancing the antiviral immune response. We are interested in using the CMV immune response as a treatment to eliminate senescent cells in diseases such as cancer, fibrosis, and degenerative diseases,” says Damery.
Damery notes that the work could also lead to advances in cosmetic dermatology, such as the development of new treatments to make skin look younger.
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