Scientists have moved one step closer to developing new drugs that could slow the aging process.
In laboratory studies, Mayo Clinic researchers working with Scripps Research Institute identified a new class of drugs that dramatically improved cardiac function, reduced symptoms of frailty, and prolonged the healthy lifespan of mice.
The findings, published in the journal Aging Cell, indicate the newly discovered drugs — called "senolytics" — target and kill aging-related cells without damaging others nearby.
The research team — led by Paul Robbins and Laura Niedernhofer, M.D., — noted senescent cells stop dividing as we age and accumulate in various body tissues, secreting proteins that damage to surrounding healthy cells and tissues. They speed up the aging process and prompt development of age-related diseases.
But for the new study, the researchers found that senescent cells can be programmed to die off in a process known as apoptosis.
By testing 46 drugs on human senescent cells, the researchers identified two that showed promise: a cancer drug called dasatinib (brand name Sprycel), and an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory supplement called quercetin. They then tested the two drugs on mice and found they significantly improved cardiovascular function, boosted exercise endurance, reduced osteoporosis and frailty, and dramatically extended the animals' lifespan.
"Remarkably, in some cases, these drugs did so with only a single course of treatment," said Dr. Niedernhofer.
Robbins added that the study marks a "big first step" toward developing drugs that extend patients' healthy lifespan and tackle age-related diseases.
"When senolytic agents, like the combination we identified, are used clinically, the results could be transformative," he said.
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