Imagine for a moment that zombie cells are trying to
take over the world. In fact, you don’t need to imagine much because senescent
cells, which are also referred to as zombie cells or aging cells, are already
striving to take over your world—your personal health and how to make your life
less than ideal.
Zombie cells are so called because like the
fictionalized “dead men walking,” they function at some level but are overall
too dead or damaged to perform their normal tasks. Therefore, they become a
hindrance: they stop the production of new cells and transform healthy ones
into zombie cells.
The result of all of this activity is tissue damage and inflammation associated with aging, dementia, certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration, and other health challenges.
That’s where the growing field of senolytics comes into the picture. This concept involves the possibility of using drugs to zoom in on senescent cells to slow down the aging process and better manage a host of serious health conditions.
zombie cells: studies
If you want to reduce your risk of these
life-altering conditions, then it appears it’s necessary to modify the genetics
of senescent cells. In a 2018 study
published in Nature Medicine,
increasing the number of senescent cells in mice resulted in premature aging.
However, when the authors gave a senolytic drug (consisting of dasatinib, a chemotherapy
drug used to treat leukemia; and quercetin, a flavonoid found in various plants;
DQ) to mice, post-treatment survival increased by 36 percent. At the same time,
the risk of dying improved by 65 percent.
In the first ever clinical trial of a senolytic drug
in humans, researchers administered dasatinib plus quercetin to 14 individuals
with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive, fatal, senescence-related
disease. The drug combination was given 1,250 mg daily, three days a week over
Overall, the patients experienced a significant
improvement in physical functions (walking, gait speed, chair stands), while
pulmonary function, chemistries, and health were unchanged. According to Dr.
James Kirkland, senior study author and professor of physiology and medicine at
the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, “This is a glimmer that the drug might
actually work,” and noted that “all 14 people got better in their functional
Use of DQ began to clear out the zombie cells within
one half hour of administration, and within 24 hours, all of the senescent
cells had disappeared, according to the authors. Thus the researchers concluded
that the pilot study showed feasibility and some evidence that senolytics may
improve physical dysfunction in individuals with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
However, further investigation is warranted for this and other
The development of senolytic drugs is in its
infancy. For now, it seems the combination of dasatinib and quercetin is an
effective approach to alleviating age-related disorders and zombie cell
challenges. Hopefully other options will be discovered that can help us put an
end to the rise of zombie cells and the many associated health conditions.
Telegraph. Anti-ageing breakthrough: scientists
beat zombie cells in bid to eradicate Alzheimer’s. 2019 Jan 9
JN et al. Senolytics in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: results from a
first-in-human, open-label, pilot study.
EBioMedicine 2019 Feb 1; 40: P554-63
Romero T. Reducing “zombie” cells may slow the aging
Voice 2019 Sep 25
Xu M et al. Senolytics improve physical function and
increase lifespan in old age. Nature Medicine