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Senescent cells: SASPected drivers of age-related pathologies.

Authors: Yossi Y. Ovadya, Valery V. Krizhanovsky
Published: 09/13/2014, Biogerontology


The progression of physiological ageing is driven by intracellular aberrations including telomere attrition, genomic instability, epigenetic alterations and loss of proteostasis. These in turn damage cells and compromise their functionality. Cellular senescence, a stable irreversible cell-cycle arrest, is elicited in damaged cells and prevents their propagation in the organism. Under normal conditions, senescent cells recruit the immune system which facilitates their removal from tissues. Nevertheless, during ageing, tissue-residing senescent cells tend to accumulate, and might negatively impact their microenvironment via profound secretory phenotype with pro-inflammatory characteristics, termed senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP). Indeed, senescent cells are mostly abundant at sites of age-related pathologies, including degenerative disorders and malignancies. Interestingly, studies on progeroid mice indicate that selective elimination of senescent cells can delay age-related deterioration. This suggests that chronic inflammation induced by senescent cells might be a main driver of these pathologies. Importantly, senescent cells accumulate as a result of deficient immune surveillance, and their removal is increased upon the use of immune stimulatory agents. Insights into mechanisms of senescence surveillance could be combined with current approaches for cancer immunotherapy to propose new preventive and therapeutic strategies for age-related diseases.

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