It doesn’t matter how healthy people are, eventually they will begin to age. The older they become, the more likely they are to experience health issues, such as arthritis, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
A new study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry focused on how the aging process works by observing cell aging. Researchers are optimistic; their findings could help pave the way for new drugs and treatments that could improve the health of people as they age.
What Causes Cell Aging?
One of the main reasons why people age is senescence. Senescence is a process in which cells stop creating new cells. It’s a natural process that often leads to age-related diseases, such as arthritis and osteoporosis.
Senescence cells are essentially the opposite of stem cells, which have the unlimited potential to divide or self-renew. Senescent cells can no longer divide. The study revealed the reason behind this: Senescent cells do not produce nucleotides; also known as “the building blocks” of DNA.
During experiments, researchers discovered nucleotides are vital to the ability to divide when they forced young cells to stop producing nucleotides. As a direct result, young cells become senescent cells. It appears nucleotides are what keeps cells young.
The research team also discovered senescent cells often have two nuclei and they don’t synthesize DNA. Previously, senescence had mostly been studied in fibroblasts, which are the most common cells that compose the connective tissue in animals. The research team focused on senescence in epithelial cells instead, which are the cells that line the surfaces of organs and structures where cancer is more likely to develop.
Is Preventing Cell Aging Possible?
One might think a better understanding of cell aging could help prevent many age-related conditions as a result. But senescent cells actually have a benefit as well.
Senescence cells act as a protective barrier against cancer. Completely preventing senescence cells would promote the growth of cancer cells. The development of certain drugs could help to remove enough senescent cells to promote healthy aging without increasing the risk of cancer.