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Researchers design antibodies that destroy old cells and slow down aging

This research opens the door to the development of new treatments to slow the progression of diseases linked to old age, such as Alzheimer’s.

Researchers from the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and the University of Leicester (United Kingdom) have developed “smart bombs” with an antibody that removes old cells from tissues and slows down the aging process.

The investigation, led by Salvador Macip and published by the magazine ‘Scientific Reports’, opens the door to developing new treatments to slow the progression of diseases linked to old age, such as Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes or cancers and, according to scientists, in the long term it could also delay the aging process.

Scientists still do not know why some people age worse than others and develop diseases associated with the process of getting older.

One explanation could be the level of efficiency of the response of each organism to the damage that cells receive throughout life, which is why they end up aging.

Researchers from the UOC and the University of Leicester have approached this question and designed an antibody that functions as a ‘smart bomb’ capable of recognizing specific proteins on the surface of these aging or senescent cells, get hooked on them and apply a drug that eliminates them, without affecting the rest, which minimizes potential side effects.

“For the first time we have a drug based on an antibody that can be applied to humans to stop cellular senescence,” said Salvador Macip, who explained that they have been based “on therapies that are already used in cancer and that target specific proteins on the surface of cancer cells, and we have transferred it to senescent cells ”.

Macip recalled that all living organisms have a mechanism called cellular senescence, which interrupts the division of damaged cells and eliminates them so that they cannot spread.

“This mechanism contributes to slowing down cancer, for example, and helps to shape tissues during the embryonic development stage,” the researcher explained.

However, despite being a very beneficial biological mechanism, during old age it contributes to the development of diseases, among other things because the immune system is no longer able to efficiently eliminate these senescent cells, which accumulate in the tissues, which its functioning worsens.

Usefulness of senolytic drugs

Some experiments in the laboratory with animals had shown that, if these cells were eliminated with drugs, it was possible to delay the progression of the disease and the degeneration typical of age.

For it, a new type of drug was used, called senolytics, which are not very specific and have side effects, making it difficult for them to be applied to humans.

The drug that Macip and his team have now designed is “a second-generation senolytic, remotely controlled and very specific.”

“Just as the body’s antibodies recognize microbes and protect us from them, we have designed these antibodies to recognize old cells and we have applied a toxic charge to them to destroy them, as if they were guided missiles”, according to Macip, who directs the Laboratory for Mechanisms of Cancer and Aging at the University of Leicester.

Treatment could begin when the first symptoms of diseases such as Alzheimer’s appear, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s, arthritis, cataracts or some tumors, and even researchers believe that it could even occur in certain circumstances to achieve healthier aging. (I)

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