Assistant Professor Nick Graham of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science has been studying the process of aging with his team. He has made several discoveries that can be helpful in the field of Aging and can help scientists to prevent Aging or at least slow it down. Their work was recently published in “Journal of Biological Chemistry.”
Nick Graham says, “To drink from the fountain of youth, you have to figure out where the fountain of youth is, and understand what the fountain of youth is doing. We’re doing the opposite; we’re studying the reasons cells age so that we might be able to design treatments for better aging.”
The Process of Aging
The cells of an ordinary human being not influenced by Aging works in this way; old cells die, and new cells are generated, but undergoing human aging has a different mechanism for cells. The cells stop regenerating new cells, and hence, it is the cause for cells to age.
When cells permanently stop generating new cells, it is a natural process known as Senescence. This is the cause for cells to age and age-related issues. Alireza Delfarah, the graduate student in Graham Lab, was the one who focused on the phenomenon of senescence and came up with the observation that senescent cells are effectively the opposite of stem cells. Stem cells have an unlimited potential for self-renewal or division, unlike senescent cells. Senescent cells can never divide again. It’s an irreversible state of cell cycle arrest.
What do senescent cells do?
A team of researchers discovered that a senescent cell stops producing nucleotides, which are an essential element and building block of DNA. The team of researchers took young cells for an experiment. They forced those cells to stop producing nucleotides, and as a result, those cells were transformed into senescent cells.
With these results from the experiment, it was concluded that the production of nucleotides is essential to keep cells as stem cells. If cells stop losing nucleotides, they might age more slowly. They need to be prevented from losing nucleotides. These conclusions were made by Delfarah.
Additionally, senescent cells, due to their property, can fight cancer. It is known as the body’s protective barrier against cancer. In the presence of senescent cells, cancer cells enter those cells and do not develop or spread anymore.
Now, scientists know that senescence is the reason behind Aging and what they have to do to slow down the process of Aging. But, senescent cells cannot be eliminated because they have the capacity to fight cancer. Graham has already stated that the goal is never to eliminate senescence because it can unleash cancer cells.
Graham says that people mention senescence as a double-edged sword, that promotes Aging and diseases related to Aging, but then it also protects against cancer.
Nick Graham has talked about finding a way to eliminate senescent cells to promote healthy Aging and better functioning of the human body.