The National Institute on Aging reports that: “Cellular senescence, an aging mechanism in which cells lose normal function, may contribute to a worse response in human cells to COVID-19 and in older mice to a similar coronavirus — but a class of drug known as senolytics decreased adverse responses and increased survival for the mice. The preclinical findings from a study funded in part by NIA were recently published in Science.”
They note that as the number of senescent cells increase with age, the cells release inflammatory factors that both interfere with the immune system, and contribute to the general risk factor of aging for almost all chronic diseases. This is also the focus of one of SRF’s projects that is working on selectively removing senescent cells and reversing the damage caused by them to rejuvenate the immune system.
According to the article, “Researchers from several NIA-funded laboratories at the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, and Indiana University . . . exposed cell and tissue samples, donated from humans, to SARS-CoV-2, a human coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 . . . ” and found that senolytic cells produced more inflammatory factors that “ . . . suppressed viral defense mechanisms and increased the expression of cell surface receptor proteins that the virus attaches to in order to enter the cell.”
In mouse models, viral exposure resulted in near 100% fatality for older mice, whereas 89% or the younger mice survived. However, treating older mice with senolytics “. . . decreased inflammation signals, improved the immune response, and increased the survival rate by 50%.”
The report suggests that humans with increased senolytic cells due to aging and other chronic conditions may benefit from increased protection from the COVID-19 virus and improved survival rates. The research continues, focusing on testing senolytic drugs in older COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized or residing in nursing homes.
For more on SENS Research Foundation’s efforts to reverse the damage of senolytic cells, please read about our ApoptoSENS research.