Over the years, senescent cells, which are aging cells that stop dividing but don’t die, can accumulate in the body. These cells can cause chronic inflammation, contributing to conditions like cancer and degenerative disorders. In mice, removing senescent cells from aging tissues has been shown to restore tissue balance and increase healthy lifespan.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have discovered that the immune response to a common virus can detect and eliminate senescent cells in human skin. They analyzed young and old skin samples to study how these cells are cleared from human tissue. The old skin samples had more senescent cells compared to the young ones. However, the number of senescent cells did not increase as individuals got older, suggesting a mechanism exists to control their numbers.
The scientists found that in elderly people, immune cells called killer CD4+ T cells are responsible for preventing the increase of senescent cells. Higher numbers of these immune cells were linked to fewer senescent cells in old skin samples. The researchers discovered that aging skin cells express a protein produced by human cytomegalovirus, a herpesvirus that infects most humans without causing symptoms. This protein makes senescent cells targets for attack by killer CD4+ T cells.
According to senior author Shawn Demehri, MD, PhD, the study shows that immune responses to human cytomegalovirus help maintain the balance of aging organs. This understanding could lead to new therapeutic approaches for eliminating senescent cells by boosting the anti-viral immune response. Such therapies could potentially be used to treat diseases like cancer, fibrosis, and degenerative diseases.
Additionally, the research may contribute to advances in cosmetic dermatology, such as the development of new treatments for younger-looking skin. Overall, the study highlights the beneficial function of viruses living within our bodies and opens up new possibilities for treating age-related conditions.
Key Takeaways in a Nutshell – Health Newstrack
– Senescent cells, which are aging cells that stop dividing but don’t die, can accumulate in the body and contribute to chronic inflammation, cancer, and degenerative disorders.
– Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital discovered that the immune response to human cytomegalovirus can detect and eliminate senescent cells in human skin.
– Killer CD4+ T cells, a type of immune cell, play a crucial role in controlling the number of senescent cells in elderly individuals.
– The immune response to human cytomegalovirus could potentially be used as a therapeutic approach to eliminate senescent cells and treat diseases like cancer, fibrosis, and degenerative diseases.
– The findings may also contribute to advances in cosmetic dermatology, such as developing new treatments for younger-looking skin.