Transgenic Mouse Study & the Zombie Cells
Oh, the beauty of ageing. The hair loss, the wrinkling of our skin, the loss of our eyesight, our diminishing cognitive memory…what joys. We’re all looking forward to it, right? Well, I guess not, but on the bright side, there might be some interesting breakthroughs to reverse this hideous truth…or at least slow it down.
In 2000, Dr. Jan van Deursen was studying some transgenic mouse models he had created. He was expecting them to develop tumors for his cancer research, but instead be noticed that the transgenic mice were ageing rapidly. By three months old they had thinning fur, and their eyes were glazed with cataracts. How strange. It took him years to figure out why these mice were ageing so rapidly. Eventually he figured out that the transgenic mice were “clogged” with a mutated cell that didn’t divide, and wouldn’t die on its own.
This eventually gave Dr. van Deursen and his colleagues an idea: what if they killed off the mutated cells in the transgenic mice themselves, since the cells wouldn’t die on their own. In a study done by the same team in 2011, they found that by killing off these ‘senescent’ cells, it slowed down many of the ageing effects on these transgenic mouse models. After many years and study performed pertaining to these zombie cells, it was discovered that these cells accumulate in ageing organs, and that eliminating them can alleviate, or even prevent, certain illnesses. In a recent study, eliminating these cells in transgenic mice models have been shown to increase thickness of their fur, kidney function, and their overall fitness.
The immune system can kill these zombie cells but in damaged, diseased, or ageing tissues they can build up. Drugs are currently being developed to “turn off” these zombie cells survival tactics. This can help to clean these senescent cells from places like the eyes, blood vessels, or joints.