T Cells May Be The Living Anti-Aging Elixir

Summary: Researchers found that T cells can be genetically reprogrammed to target and eliminate senescent cells, which contribute to aging-related diseases. By using CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T cells in mice, they achieved significant health improvements including lower body weight, enhanced metabolism, and increased physical activity.

This groundbreaking approach, offering long-term effects from a single treatment, could revolutionize treatments for age-related conditions like obesity and diabetes, transcending the potential of CAR T cells beyond their current use in cancer therapy.

Key Facts:

  1. Reprogrammed CAR T cells can effectively target senescent cells, reducing aging-related health issues in mice.
  2. A single treatment with these modified T cells offers long-term health benefits, a major advantage over current therapies requiring repeated doses.
  3. This discovery expands the medical applications of CAR T cells, previously known for treating blood cancers, to potentially combating aging-related diseases.

Source: CSHL

The fountain of youth has eluded explorers for ages. It turns out the magic anti-aging elixir might have been inside us all along.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Assistant Professor Corina Amor Vegas and colleagues have discovered that T cells can be reprogrammed to fight aging, so to speak. Given the right set of genetic modifications, these white blood cells can attack another group of cells known as senescent cells. These cells are thought to be responsible for many of the diseases we grapple with later in life.

This shows an older and younger woman.
CAR T cells have been used to treat a variety of blood cancers, receiving FDA approval for this purpose in 2017. Credit: Neuroscience News

Senescent cells are those that stop replicating. As we age, they build up in our bodies, resulting in harmful inflammation. While several drugs currently exist that can eliminate these cells, many must be taken repeatedly over time.

As an alternative, Amor Vegas and colleagues turned to a “living” drug called CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T cells. They discovered CAR T cells could be manipulated to eliminate senescent cells in mice.

As a result, the mice ended up living healthier lives. They had lower body weight, improved metabolism and glucose tolerance, and increased physical activity. All benefits came without any tissue damage or toxicity. 

“If we give it to aged mice, they rejuvenate. If we give it to young mice, they age slower. No other therapy right now can do this, ” says Amor Vegas.

Perhaps the greatest power of CAR T cells is their longevity. The team found that just one dose at a young age can have lifelong effects. That single treatment can protect against conditions that commonly occur later in life, like obesity and diabetes. 

“T cells have the ability to develop memory and persist in your body for really long periods, which is very different from a chemical drug, ” explains Amor Vegas.

“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.”

CAR T cells have been used to treat a variety of blood cancers, receiving FDA approval for this purpose in 2017. But Amor Vegas is one of the first scientists to show that CAR T cells’ medical potential goes even further than cancer.

Amor Vegas’ lab is now investigating whether CAR T cells let mice live not only healthier but also longer. If so, society will be one mouse step closer to the coveted fountain of youth.

About this aging and genetics research news

Author: Sara Giarnieri
Source: CSHL
Contact: Sara Giarnieri – CSHL
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: The findings will appear in Nature Aging

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