Mitochondria Play A Pro-Aging Role In Senescent Cells

Posted on 8 February 2016

Credit: NICHD/U. Manor

Credit: NICHD/U. Manor

Mitochondria are heavily implicated in the aging process, and a new study has demonstrated that mitochondria lie behind pro-aging senescent cell behaviour

Senescent cells become harmful as we get older, exhibiting inflammatory, damaging behaviour. Reducing this negative behaviour, in addition to removal of these cells could therefore improve health and reduce disease risk. 

To analyse whether mitochondria contribute to pro-aging behaviours in senescent cells a team led  by researchers at Newcastle University devised a number of experiments involving human cells. They essentially encouraged wide spread elimination of mitochondria in older cells, by coaxing the cells to eat them up in a process called mitophagy. 

“This is a very exciting and surprising discovery. We already had some clues that mitochondria played a role in the ageing of cells, but scientists around the world have struggled to understand exactly how and to what extent these were involved”

Senescent cells (stained blue) produce inflammatory, pro-oxidant signals

Senescent cells (stained blue) produce inflammatory, pro-oxidant signals

When their mitochondria had been removed to the extent no activity was detectable, the cells were rejuvenated – showing reduced inflammation markers, oxidative stress and age-related gene expression. The team theorised that mitochondrial biogenesis could therefore play an important role in cellular aging and stress. Although removal of mitochondria entirely is a drastic option, the research makes mitochondria a target to ameliorate the pro-aging effects of senescent cells. 

“This is the first time that a study demonstrates that mitochondria are necessary for cellular ageing. Now we are a step closer to devising therapies which target mitochondria to counteract the ageing of cells”

Read more at MedicalXpress

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