Researchers Unveil “Anti-aging” Vaccine in Mice
A study published in Nature Aging suggests that vaccination against toxic, non-replicating cells could potentially prevent aging and age-related diseases.
The action of making a person or animal immune to infection (immunization) has come a long way since the debut of vaccines in the late 18th century — when Dr. Edward Jenner collected bits of smallpox from the arm of a milkmaid named Sarah Nelmes and scratched it into the arm of an 8-year-old boy — to today’s SARS-CoV-2 injection. Scientific giants including Louis Pasteur and Jonas Salk have helped humans escape the wrath of rabies, anthrax, and polio, rendering these viruses essentially non-threatening. But can vaccines directly target and eliminate age-related processes and diseases?
In an article published in Nature Aging, Suda and colleagues demonstrated that a vaccine eliminating senescent cells related to aging and age-related disease ameliorated aging in aged mice and prolonged the lifespan of mice with premature aging. The Japanese research team from Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine and Niigata University Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences show that vaccination against senescent cells could improve atherosclerosis and metabolic dysfunction in mice.
“We can expect that (the vaccine) will be applied to the treatment of arterial stiffening, diabetes, and other aging-related diseases,” Juntendo University professor Toru Minamino said.
How can senescent cells be eliminated to improve aging and longevity?
Senescent cells accumulate in various tissues with aging or in response to metabolic stress. For example, senescent cells that line blood vessels called vascular endothelial cells are observed in human atherosclerotic plaque. Senescent vascular endothelial cells exhibit functional abnormalities, such as impairment of blood vessel relaxation, and these cells also produce inflammatory molecules known as senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) factors. Both of these changes accelerate the development of atherosclerosis. Visceral adipose tissue develops senescence-like features in patients with type 2 diabetes and promotes insulin resistance.
Several agents that eliminate senolytic cells, also known as senolytics, improve age-associated pathologies and diseases reversibly and extend the healthy lifespan in aged mice. While senolytic therapy has progressed, concerns remain regarding the safety and specificity of the senolytics reported on to date. But not all senescent cells contribute to aging and disease; some are useful and contribute to tissue repair. So, more cell or tissue-specific treatments that efficiently eliminate unwanted senescent cells without affecting the beneficial subset of these cells are highly sought after.