Mayo Clinic scientists Darren Baker and Jan van Deursen have been removing “senescent” cells from the brains of mice. Senescent cells — essentially cells that have taken hits for the team and retain the damage — are cells that don’t repair or destroy themselves when their usefulness is over. Instead they persist in their damaged state, sometimes turning into tumors or causing other problems like inflammation.
Turns out when you remove those cells, mice age more slowly, stay more fit, and live longer. Lives were extended by 35% in some cases. An article in Nature explains how these senescent cells “shorten healthy lifespan.” But there are also concerns about senescent cells’ role as a potential cancer combatant before old age is reached. Next stop, humans, of course. Unity Biotech, created to use this new research and explore other benefits of “senescent” cell removal, is raising big money in Silicon Valley.