Mayo team spot­lights the role of senes­cent cells in neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion, start­ing down a path­way that may lead to Alzheimer’s

As an­ti-ag­ing re­search grows around the world, there’s been a big fo­cus on clear­ing away the “senes­cent” cells that clut­ter bod­ies as peo­ple grow old­er. These ag­ing cells lose the abil­i­ty to di­vide and mouse stud­ies have of­fered a pre­clin­i­cal the­o­ry that sweep­ing them away with new drugs can of­fer peo­ple longer, health­i­er lives.

Now a re­search team at the Mayo Clin­ic is of­fer­ing more an­i­mal da­ta to back that up, and they’re shin­ing a light on a new path­way in neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion and specif­i­cal­ly Parkin­son’s and Alzheimer’s — per­haps the sin­gle most frus­trat­ing field in drug de­vel­op­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mayo team, they were able to de­ter­mine that mi­croglia and as­tro­cyte cells were most like­ly to turn in­to rogue zom­bies. By clear­ing these senes­cent cells from the brains of mice, they tar­get­ed a key path­way im­pli­cat­ed in Alzheimer’s, tamped down on in­flam­ma­tion and had an im­pact on mem­o­ry.

“We used a mouse mod­el that pro­duces sticky, cob­web like tan­gles of tau pro­tein in neu­rons and has ge­net­ic mod­i­fi­ca­tions to al­low for senes­cent cell elim­i­na­tion,” ex­plains first au­thor Tyler Buss­ian, a Mayo Clin­ic Grad­u­ate School of Bio­med­ical Sci­ences stu­dent. “When senes­cent cells were re­moved, we found that the dis­eased an­i­mals re­tained the abil­i­ty to form mem­o­ries, elim­i­nat­ed signs of in­flam­ma­tion, did not de­vel­op neu­rofib­ril­lary tan­gles, and had main­tained nor­mal brain mass.”

The work was pub­lished in Na­ture.

It’s a big leap — and an in­cred­i­bly com­plex chal­lenge — to go from a dis­ease mod­el in pre­clin­i­cal stud­ies to test­ing this con­cept in hu­mans. But bil­lions have been spent on Alzheimer’s with noth­ing but fail­ure to show for it. The theme now is try­ing new things, with a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing that bend­ing the curve of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion in pa­tients who ex­hib­it symp­toms of their dis­ease will be ex­tra­or­di­nar­i­ly dif­fi­cult.

The most ad­vanced biotech in the senes­cence field is an up­start called Uni­ty, which was able to trans­late their pre­clin­i­cal work in­to a Phase I which starts with os­teoarthri­tis. But in­ves­ti­ga­tors in the field — in­clud­ing the team at Uni­ty — be­lieve they’re on a trail that leads to a host of ail­ments.

Alzheimer’s just may be one of them.


Im­age: Dar­ren Bak­er, se­nior au­thor, and Tyler Buss­ian.MAYO CLIN­IC

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing the val­ue of pre­ci­sion med­i­cine

By Natasha Cowan, Content Marketing Manager at Blue Latitude Health.
Many stakeholders are confused by novel precision medicines, including patients and healthcare professionals. So, how can industry help them to navigate this complexity?

Precision medicine represents a new paradigm in healthcare. It embodies the shift from treating many patients with the same therapy, to having the tools to identify the best treatment for every patient.

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