Researchers at the Open University of Catalonia develop ‘smart bombs’ together with the University of Leicester to remove old cells from tissues
Researchers from the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and University of Leicester (United Kingdom) have developed ‘smart bombs’ that contain an antibody capable of removing old cells from tissues and slow down the aging process.
Scientists still do not know why some people age worse than others and, consequently, develop diseases associated with the aging process such as Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes or cancers. One explanation could be the level of efficiency of each organism’s response to the damage that cells receive throughout life, which is why they end up aging.
A ‘smart bomb’
The research, led by Salvador Macip and published by the magazine ‘Scientific Reports‘, has approached this question and has made it possible to develop new treatments to delay the progression of diseases linked to old age and, according to scientists, in the long term also to delay the aging process.
To achieve this, researchers from the UOC and the University of Leicester have designed a antibody that works as a ‘smart bomb’ capable of recognizing specific proteins on the surface of these aging or senescent cells, latching onto them and applying a drug to them that eliminates them without affecting the rest, minimizing potential side effects. “For the first time we have an antibody-based drug that can be applied to humans to slow down 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 has explained 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 has detailed. However, although it is 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 that accumulate in the tissues, which its functioning worsens.
After several attempts
Several experiments with animals had shown that eliminating these cells with drugs could delay disease progression and age-related degeneration. To do this, a new type of drug was used, called senolithic, which are unspecific and have side effects, making it difficult for them to be applied to humans. On the contrary, the drug that Macip and his team have now designed is “a second-generation senolytic, remotely controlled and very specific,” as he explained. “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,” says Macip, who directs the Laboratory of Mechanisms of Cancer and Aging, University of Leicester.
Researchers believe the treatment could be start to administer when the first symptoms of diseases appear such as Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s, arthritis, cataracts or some tumors, and they even consider that it could occur in certain circumstances to achieve a much healthier aging.