Australian scientists have made a significant breakthrough in the field of aging and cognitive health. Through their research on lab-grown brain tissue known as “mini brains,” they have discovered that certain drugs have the potential to reverse the aging process in the human brain and treat cognitive damage caused by COVID-19.
Senescent cells, often referred to as “zombie cells,” are cells that cease to function properly but refuse to die. These cells can accumulate as we age and contribute to cognitive decline and disorders such as Alzheimer’s. Researchers from Queensland found that specific drugs, called senolytics, can eliminate these “zombie cells” from brain tissue.
The study involved growing brain organoids from human stem cells, resembling small lumpy brain tissues. Some of these mini-brains were infected with COVID-19 to observe the effects of the virus on cellular senescence. The researchers discovered that senolytic drugs successfully flushed out senescent cells from the organoids and reversed COVID-related damage.
The most effective treatment involved a combination of two drugs: a flavonoid found in plants and a chemotherapy drug. These drugs not only reduced the levels of senescent cells but also decreased the amount of virus found in the infected mini brains.
While this research shows promise, it is important to note that the study was conducted on mini brains and mice. The translation to human treatment is likely years away and may never come to fruition. Clinical trials are still in their early stages, with a recent Phase 1 trial testing the safety and feasibility of senolytics in treating Alzheimer’s.
Despite the challenges ahead, this research opens up new possibilities for understanding aging and cognitive health. By targeting senescent cells, scientists may be able to develop interventions that promote healthy brain function and potentially reverse the effects of aging on the brain.
Q: What are senescent cells?
Senescent cells are cells that stop dividing, healing, or operating properly but refuse to die. They tend to accumulate naturally as we age and can contribute to cognitive decline and various disorders.
Q: How do senescent cells affect cognitive health?
Senescent cells can emit inflammatory compounds that damage surrounding healthy cells, leading to cognitive decline and disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Q: Can senolytic drugs treat COVID-related cognitive damage?
Research on brain organoids has shown that senolytic drugs can flush out senescent cells and reverse cognitive damage caused by COVID-19.
Q: When can we expect these treatments to be available for humans?
The translation of this research into potential human treatments is at least a decade away, and further clinical trials are needed to test the safety and efficacy of these interventions.
Q: Are there any current treatments for clearing senescent cells?
The study of clearing senescent cells for human health is still in its early stages. However, some clinical trials have begun testing senolytics in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. It may take several years before these treatments become widely available.