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Removing Worn-Out Cells Increases Lifespan

Update Date: Feb 04, 2016 11:32 AM EST

Supplanting worn-out cells in lab mice can extend their lifespan, paving the way for new treatments that fight age-related diseases in humans, according to researchers from the Mayo Clinic, reports Nature.

The "worn-out" or senescent cells tend to collect with age and release harmful molecules linked to illnesses such as kidney failure and type 2 diabetes.

"They're zombie cells," said Steven Austad, a biogerontologist from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "They've outlived their usefulness. They're bad."

Once they stop dividing, the cells tend to release "inflammatory chemicals" destroying their environments and increase aging, says Science News.

To examine the effect of aging on the cells, the team "genetically engineered" mice in order to test if these cells would die off only by injecting a drug.

"We think these cells are bad when they accumulate. We remove them and see the consequences," said Darren Baker, co-author of the study. "That's how I try to explain it to my kids."

The team tested the results in 12-month-old mice, that translates to roughly 40 human years.

Baker and his team found that after the senescent cells were killed off in six months, the mice were more healthy than control groups of mice. They also exhibited higher levels of kidney functioning, resistance to stress and illnesses such as cancer. Their lifespans were also increased by 20 to 30 percent.

The study was published in the Feb.3,2016 issue of Nature.

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