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A Japanese research team has discovered a medical agent capable of only removing senescent cells, which can cause aging-related diseases such as arteriosclerosis and diabetes.

The team, including researchers from the University of Tokyo, Niigata University and Kyushu University, succeeded in improving symptoms of such diseases in mice through the use of the medical agent.

The discovery is expected to help improve the treatment and prevention of such age-associated diseases.

A paper about the finding was published in the U.S. journal Science on Friday.

When cells come under stress they transform into senescent cells and accumulate in the body with aging.

Previous research with elderly mice has shown that it is possible to delay the development of arteriosclerosis and kidney disorder by removing senescent cells from the body using a special method.

But the use of a medical agent in the removal of such cells had not been discovered until now.

Makoto Nakanishi, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Medical Science, and other team members looked for the gene necessary for a senescent cell to survive and identified glutaminase 1, or GLS1, a gene related to glutamine metabolism.

The team also found that the inside of a senescent cell is acidified due to an abnormality in cell organelles, and GLS1 actively works to neutralize inside of the cell and keep it alive.

When administered with an inhibitor of GLS1, senescent cells in a variety of organs in elderly mice were eliminated and improvements in kidney, lung and liver functions were confirmed.

Improvements were also seen in mice with arteriosclerosis or diabetes.

The inhibitor is expected to have similar effects on the human body, as it has been learned that GLS1 in the human body also becomes more active with aging.

The inhibitor of GLS1 has already been used in clinical trials as a candidate for cancer treatment.

“It may also be effective for treating other age-associated diseases such as dementia,” Nakanishi said. “It would be great if we could try to carry out clinical trials (for such use) in the next five to 10 years.”

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