Sage said the next big question is how to determine when and how many senescent cells to remove to have a positive health impact.
"The tricky part in people will be how many senescent cells you can eliminate without killing the person, but to have an effect," Sage believes.
Another expert agreed the findings were intriguing.
"It's an elegant study and a most important discovery," said Dr. Nir Barzilai, professor of medicine and genetics and director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City. He said it's been suggested that senescence is a protective mechanism, against cancer, for example. However, "this paper really suggests that senescence is not good or neutral, but in fact, if cleared, can be associated with less aging," he said.
The findings invite countless avenues for future research, said the authors.
"If you attack the fundamental aging process, can you attack age-related illnesses as a whole?" Kirkland wondered. "Can you delay cancer, dementias, atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity and its complications as a group?"
For tips on healthy aging, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Jan van Deursen, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics, molecular biology, and biochemistry, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., director, Mayo Clinic's Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging, Rochester, Minn.; Gary Kennedy, M.D., director, division of geriatric psychiatry, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; Julian Sage, Ph.D., associate professor, pediatric
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