Experts develop antibodies that effectively remove senescent cells

The reason why some people age worse than others and develop diseases—like fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, or certain kinds of cancer—linked to the aging mechanism is largely unknown.

Experts develop antibodies that effectively remove senescent cells
The drug designed by Macip and his team is a second-generation senolytic with high specificity and remote-controlled delivery against old cells. Image Credit:, Unsplash.

An explanation provided relates to the degree of efficacy of every organism’s response to the damage sustained by its cells during its life, which ultimately results in aging.

Scientists from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and the University of Leicester (United Kingdom) created a novel process to eliminate old cells from tissues, thereby delaying the aging process.

The researchers particularly developed an antibody that functions as a smart bomb capable of identifying specific proteins on the surface of the aged or senescent cells. The antibody later binds itself to them and discharges a drug that eliminates them without affecting the rest, thereby reducing any potential side effects.

The findings of the study pave way for the creation of efficient treatments to slow down the progress of age-related diseases and also the aging process itself in the longer term. It aims to increase the longevity and the overall quality of life of individuals at this stage of their lives. The study was published in the Scientific Reports journal.

We now have, for the first time, an antibody-based drug that can be used to help slow down cellular senescence in humans. We based this work on existing cancer therapies that target specific proteins present on the surface of cancer cells, and then applied them to senescent cells

Salvador Macip, Doctor and Researcher, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Macip headed the study and is also associated with the University of Leicester.

Living organisms possess a mechanism called “cellular senescence” that stops the division of damaged cells and eliminates them to stop them from reproducing. For instance, this mechanism helps delay the progression of cancer and also helps model tissue at the embryo development stage.

Even when the mechanism is much useful, it contributes to the formation of diseases during the old age of the organism. This is because the immune system is not able to effectively eliminate the senescent cells, which slowly accumulate in tissues and adversely impact their functioning.

Earlier research works carried out in the laboratory with animal models revealed that removing these cells with drugs efficiently slowed down the progress of the disease and the decline linked to age itself. This was possible with a novel drug called senolytics. But these drugs lack specificity and do have side effects, restraining their use in humans.

The drug developed by Macip and his group is a second-generation senolytic with great specificity and remote-controlled delivery. They began from the findings of earlier research that analyzed the “surfaceome”—the proteins found on the cell’s surface—to pinpoint those proteins found only in senescent cells.

They’re not universal: some are more present than others on each type of aged cell.”

Salvador Macip, Doctor and Researcher, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

The scientists in their recent research employed a monoclonal antibody trained to identify senescent cells and bind to them.

Just like our antibodies recognize germs and protect us from them, we’ve designed these antibodies to recognize old cells. In addition, we’ve given them a toxic load to destroy them, as if they were a remote-controlled missile.”

Salvador Macip, Doctor and Researcher, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Macip is also the head of the University of Leicester’s Mechanisms of Cancer and Ageing Lab.

Treatment can be initiated immediately after the onset of the first symptoms of the disease—like type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cataracts, arthritis, or some tumors. The scientists also assume that in the long run, this can also be employed to achieve healthier aging in certain circumstances.

Journal reference:

Poblocka, M., et al. (2021) Targeted clearance of senescent cells using an antibody-drug conjugate against a specific membrane marker. Scientific Reports.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoLifeSciences.
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