Senescent cell findings provides Parkinson’s treatment clue

pharmafile | January 25, 2018 | News story | Research and Development Alzheimer's, biotech, drugs, pharma, pharmaceutical 

Senescent cells are the dormant state that cells shift to in response to certain stressors, it is thought that they play crucial role in preventing cancer – as they cells shut down to prevent overactive growth.

However, as understanding of their role develops, the damage that can be done by such cells are becoming better known, including the part they may play in age-related diseases.

Researchers from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging have now revealed the role senescent cells may play in the development of Parkinson’s.

To test their hypothesis, the cells were encouraged to form in mouse studies by introducing the herbicide, paraquat, a substance previously linked to neurodegeneration in humans, and studying how this impacted astrocytes, ‘helper’ cells that provide a variety of tasks in the brain.

Astrocytes are the most numerous cells within the central nervous system and previous studies have shown that samples from autopsy of those that had died with Parkinson’s showed an increase level of astrocytic senescence.

When the mice were administered paraquat, it was found that many astrocytes became senescent and, as a result, caused inflammation in the surrounding cells; mice that received the neurotoxin developed issues with mobility. It is thought that the chemicals released by senescent cells are particularly damaging to neurons that create dopamine, a key contributor to Parkinson’s disease.

“While senescence has been implicated in Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disease, we believe this is the first time that clearing the inflammatory cells prevented symptoms from developing in a live mammal,” said Julie K. Andersen, Buck professor and senior author on the paper. “We hope that the fact that we were able to do this in a sporadic, rather than genetic, model of Parkinson’s, highlights its relevance as a potential new way to tackle the most prevalent form of the disease.”

The researchers also gave mice a drug that counteracts senescent cells, effectively destroying the cells, and found that normal movement resulted from the counter-treatment.

The findings open research pathways to discover if targeting certain senescent cells may be an effective treatment for Parkinson’s and a number of age-related diseases.

Ben Hargreaves

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