November 22, 2011

AGING: In Body’s Shield Against Cancer, a Culprit in Aging May Lurk. “Senescent cells thus seem to be a benign byproduct of the body’s defense against cancer. But researchers have developed growing suspicions of a less benign aspect: the cells’ culpability in aging. Senescent cells accumulate throughout life, probably because the immune system sweeps them away less efficiently as a person ages. Larger and flatter than normal cells, they are especially common in tissues showing signs of aging, like arthritic knees or the plaque in the arteries. . . . Dr. van Deursen thinks it would be better to go after the senescent cells themselves. In his view it should be easy enough by trial and error to find chemicals that selectively destroy senescent cells, just like the targeted chemicals now used to treat certain kinds of cancer. And unlike the cancer cells, which proliferate so fast that they soon develop resistance, the senescent cells cannot replicate, so they should be easy targets.”

Plus, a key bit: “Personally I think we can slow aging down, and over time we will become more and more successful. Aging is a fate that no one can escape, but now we can maybe intervene a bit.”

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