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A new molecule effectively eliminates 'zombie' cells

22 May , 2023

After sometime, the body's cells stop working properly and begin to accumulate, which eventually leads to tissues ageing. Researchers at the UOC collaborating with the University of Leicester have discovered a new molecule that is able to destroy these old cells without affecting the healthy ones. This paves the way to being able to delay the ageing of the body's tissues and eventually, to improving quality of life and life expectancy in human beings. For now, the results, which have been published in open-access format in the journal Aging, have been obtained in cells in vitro, and testing with animal models will now begin.

During  in a person's life, cells undergo various types of stress, such as solar radiation, which leads to them accumulating mutations. The body activates defence mechanisms at a certain point in order to prevent a tumour from developing: either the cell 'commits suicide', in a process known as apoptosis, or it becomes senescent, which is a kind of 'zombie' state between life and death, in which it no longer functions despite still being alive, and it also begins to manufacture products that replicate the zombie state in the other healthy cells around it. While the organism is young, the immune system can eliminate these cells and clean up the tissues.

However, as people get older, the immune system stops performing this maintenance; the reasons why this happens are unknown. This means that these zombie cells begin to accumulate in our tissues, impairing how they work, and leading to ageing.



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