Ageing is still not considered a disease. This is a problem, because doctors cannot prescribe known drugs that slow the ageing down, but maybe it will change with better understanding of the mechanism behind ageing. Now scientists from the University of Edinburgh found that some of the damaging cell effects linked to ageing could be prevented by manipulating tiny parts of cells.
Senescence is a vital cell process that plays a key role in diseases of ageing. During senescence cells stop dividing, which allows injuries to heal and prevents harmful growths from forming. In this way, senescence is a vital process, but it can also be damaging, leading to tissue damage and the deterioration of cell health. This damage is particularly easy to spot in age-related diseases, including cancers and diabetes. Scientists say that the findings of the new study on senescence could have relevance for treating these conditions and generally preventing health deterioration related to ageing.
Senescence causes a chain of harmful processes in the cells – the phenomenon is called the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP). In short, SASP promotes a chemical chain reaction, which damages cells through inflammation. On one hand, it is a natural process, but on the other – we have scientific tools that could help us preventing this from happening in the first place. Nuclear pores are gateways through which molecules enter the heart of the cell. This new research showed that manipulating them can prevent the triggering of the SASP. Scientists also showed that DNA has to be reorganised in space within in the cell’s nucleus in order for the SASP to be triggered. These are promising results, but scientists cannot stress enough – more research needs to be done before this becomes a practical knowledge.
This study provides a clearer view of how senescence is related to cell damage that occurs during the course of ageing. Preventing this damage would result in healthier later stages in life. Lindsay Wilson, one of the authors of the study, said: “This study is important because it provides valuable insights in how cells respond to damage and stress. Senescence is an essential self-defence mechanism but at times, can also be harmful. [This] work suggests ways in which scientists of the future might target these harmful effects, for example in age-related diseases”.
Should ageing be considered a disease? One would say no, because it is just a natural process. However, if we did consider it a disease, it would open doors to more research and treatment opportunities. As society grows older, we would benefit from a longer healthier lifespan.
Source: University of Edinburgh