Al final Aubrey De Grey no va a andar muy equivocado...
The researchers, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, are calling for senolytic drugs to make the leap from animal research to human clinical trials. They outlined potential clinical trial scenarios in a paper published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on Monday.
"This is one of the most exciting fields in all of medicine or science at the moment," said Dr. James Kirkland, director of the Kogod Center on Aging at the Mayo Clinic and lead author of the new paper.
As we age, we accumulate senescent cells, which are damaged cells that resist dying off but stay in our bodies. They can affect other cells in our various organs and tissues. Senolytic drugs are agents capable of killing problem-causing senescent cells in your body without harming your normal, healthy cells.
Scientists have long known that certain processes influence your body's aging on the cellular level, according to the paper. Those processes include inflammation, changes in your DNA, cell damage or dysfunction and the accumulation of senescent cells.
It turns out that those processes are linked. For instance, DNA damage causes increased senescent cell accumulation, Kirkland said.
So an intervention that targets senescent cells could attenuate other aging processes as well, according to the new paper. That is, once such an intervention is tested for efficacy and safety.
"I think senolytic drugs have a great future. If it is proven that it can reduce senescent cells and rejuvenate tissues or organs, it may be one of our potential best treatments for age-related diseases," said Dr. Kang Zhang, founding director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved in the new paper.
Yet taking senolytic drugs from mouse studies to human ones is a "big leap," Zhang said.
"So we will have to wait for clinical trials to see whether this would work in humans," he said. "One possible clinical trial strategy is to test this class of drugs in an age-related disease, such as neurodegeneration, like Parkinson's disease, to see if it can reduce clinical severity of the disease and improve tissue functions."
Senescent cells play a role in many age-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, most cancers, dementia, arthritis, osteoporosis and blindness, Kirkland said. Therefore, senolytic drugs are a possible treatment approach for such diseases.
As a practicing physician, Kirkland said that he has grown increasingly concerned for his patients who are sick with many of these age-related conditions.
"The same processes that cause aging seem to be the root causes of age-related diseases," he said. "Why not target the root cause of all of these things? That would have been a pipe dream until a few years back."
One company, Unity Biotechnology, aims to be the first to demonstrate that removing senescent cells can cure human diseases, said its president, Nathaniel David.
"In the coming decades, I believe that health care will be transformed by this class of medicine and a whole set of diseases that your parents and grandparents have will be things you only see in movies or read in books, things like age-associated arthritis," said David, whose company was not involved in the new paper.