New research found that one dose of a specialized CAR T cell treatment reduced the number of aging-related senescent cells in mice, leading to improved metabolic and physical function.
Currently, no medications or supplements are proven to halt or reverse the natural aging process. However, recent anti-aging research has led to some significant breakthroughs.
For instance, scientists have discovered that one of the hallmarks of aging is the accumulation of senescent cells, AKA 'zombie cells,' in the body. These aged cells stop dividing but remain alive, contributing to tissue decline, age-related metabolic problems, and decreased physical fitness.
Reports suggest that compounds such as fisetin may help remove senescent cells from the body. Moreover, several human studies are currently investigating a senolytic therapy consisting of dasatinib and quercetin. Some investigations found that the combo treatment improved the participants' blood pressure and physical performance. Still, treatments such as these may require repeated doses to provide long-term anti-aging benefits.
However, a mouse study recently published in Nature Aging found that a single injection of a senolytic therapy consisting of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells could delay or reverse the hallmarks of aging and may continue to provide these benefits for years.
Healthcare providers already use CAR T cells to treat blood cancers, such as lymphomas, leukemia, and multiple myeloma. Scientists make CAR T cells by reengineering T cells collected from patients to produce proteins called chimeric antigen receptors (CAR). These CARs can recognize and bind to proteins on a cancer cell and destroy it.
However, in this study, the scientists from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, gave older mice and mice fed a high-fat diet an injection of specialized CAR T cells engineered to target senescent cells. The team found that the modified senolytic CAR T cell shot improved exercise capacity and metabolic dysfunctions such as glucose tolerance. Moreover, one injection was enough for the mice to achieve and maintain therapeutic and preventive effects for over a year.
In addition, when the team injected young adult mice with the senolytic CAR T therapy, they aged slower, had higher physical activity, and had lower blood sugar levels as they aged.
Once introduced into the body, CAR T cells are known to exist for over 10 years. They can also help teach the immune system to recognize cells they are programmed to target. In this case, the CAR T cells targeted senescent cells.
The researchers found that the dose needed to produce anti-aging benefits in mice did not cause toxicities or adverse effects.
Will the new anti-aging CAR T cell therapy work in humans?
While senolytic CAR T therapy showed promise as an anti-aging breakthrough in this mouse study, more in-depth research is needed before the treatment can enter human trials.
Moreover, CAR T therapies currently used to treat cancer in humans can trigger potentially harmful immune responses. These therapies are also expensive. For example, the most recently approved CAR T-cell therapy costs over $450,000.
Still, scientists hope this new discovery will eventually become a treatment for age-related conditions.
In a press release, corresponding author Corina Amor Vegas, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor at CSHL, said, "With CAR T cells, you have the potential of getting this one treatment, and then that's it. For chronic pathologies, that's a huge advantage. Think about patients who need treatment multiple times per day versus you get an infusion, and then you're good to go for multiple years."
- Science. Senolytics in the clinic.
- Clinical Trials.gov. Dasatinib and quercetin.
- Nature Aging. Prophylactic and long-lasting efficacy of senolytic CAR T cells against age-related metabolic dysfunction.
- NIH. CAR T cells: engineering patients' immune cells to treat their cancers.
- Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The fountain of youth is … a T cell?