A project aiming to eliminate so-called ‘zombie cells’ using a new group of drugs has received a grant of over £125,000 from national charity Heart Research UK.
The ageing process involves the build-up of senescent cells, which are commonly referred to as ‘zombie cells’. The project, at King’s College London, are aiming to eliminate these cells to reduce the risk of life-threatening disorders such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, which become more common when you age.
Leader of the project, Professor Georgina Ellison-Hughes at King’s College said: “The treatment of ‘senescent’ cells is an incredibly interesting area of research, and this project has the potential to change the way we treat a whole range of conditions.”
Zombie cells release chemicals that can be harmful to nearby cells, which eventually causes them to become senescent. The build up of these cells promotes ageing and age-related conditions.
Lab studies have shown that the eliminating zombie cells also improves conditions such as cataracts, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and kidney problems. Overall, getting rid of zombie cells could ultimately improve poor physical function and extend lifespan.
“Ageing isn’t something we can control, but we may be able to reduce some of the risks that it poses to our health. We are extremely grateful to Heart Research UK for allowing us to undertake this vital research,” said Professor Ellison-Hughes.
The project will use a lab model where zombie human heart cells are grown together with healthy human heart cells. This will help researchers to understand how zombie cells are harmful to healthy heart cells, thus allowing tests of the effects of senolytic drugs, which will determine whether eliminating zombie cells improves the survival and growth of heart muscle cells and their ability to repair the heart.”
Kate Bratt-Farrar, chief executive of Heart Research UK said: “Our Translational research Project Grants are all about bridging the gap between laboratory-based scientific research and patient care – they aim to bring the latest developments to patients as soon as possible.”