Groundbreaking discovery on aging
One of the year's top 10 scientific achievements
A groundbreaking study by Mayo Clinic shows that the onset of age-related disorders and disabilities could be delayed or prevented by eliminating senescent or "deadbeat" cells, which cause age-related disorders. Science magazine recognized the work as one of the year's top 10 scientific achievements.
Mayo first to decrease effects of aging by eliminating senescent cells
The Mayo study — the first to eliminate senescent cells from mice — received worldwide attention when it was published in Nature, the international weekly journal, in November 2011.
Mayo researchers used genetic engineering to put a gene into mice with early onset of age-related complications such as cataracts, feeble muscles and stiff arteries. This gene only gets switched on when cells become senescent and dysfunctional with aging. They then gave these mice a drug that acts together with the gene to eliminate these senescent cells. Mayo research showed that eliminating senescent cells delayed onset of age-related cataracts and muscle weakness and impaired exercise capacity.
According to Science magazine, "Compared with their brethren, treated mice could scurry for a longer time on a treadmill and perform more strenuous workouts."
Senescent cells cause age-related disorders
"Therapeutic interventions to get rid of senescent cells or block their effects may represent an avenue to make us feel more vital, healthier, and allow us to stay independent for a much longer time," says Jan van Deursen, Ph.D., Vita Valley Professor of Cellular Senescence at Mayo Clinic and senior author. "This is indeed an honor, coming from Science. We're pleased for this recognition of our team and collaborators, including the Mayo Clinic Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging."
James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Kogod Center on Aging and also an author of the study, views the work as "a key step in a major effort involving many investigators and clinicians across Mayo to target fundamental aging processes."
Could pave the way to preventing age-related chronic diseases
"This work could pave the way to delaying or preventing age-related chronic diseases, such as cancers, dementias, heart disease and diabetes as a group, instead of one at a time," says Dr. Kirkland. Authors of the study included Darren Baker, Ph.D.; Tobias Wijshake; Tamara Tchkonia, Ph.D.; Nathan LeBrasseur, Ph.D.; Bennet Childs; James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D.; and Jan van Deursen, Ph.D., all from Mayo Clinic, and Bart van de Sluis from Groningen University, Netherlands.
The Science editors also expressed enthusiasm that "mice whose bodies were cleared of these loitering cells didn't live longer than their untreated cage-mates — but they did seem to live better, which provided researchers with some hope that banishing senescent cells might also prolong our golden years."
Mayo Clinic's groundbreaking scientific achievement was recognized alongside breakthroughs in asteroid dust, industrial molecules, Neanderthal DNA and pristine clouds of hydrogen in the universe.
By successfully eliminating the effects of aging in mice, Mayo Clinic has taken an important step forward in its quest for healthier, more productive human lives.