By Allan Mai ‘20
Much medical research is dedicated to the challenge of preventing the buildup of the proteins that cause diseases or accelerate their progression. Many researchers have devoted their careers to finding ways to prevent these diseases at the molecular level. One researcher and his colleagues are currently looking into senescent cells in hopes of finding answers on neurodegeneration which is the loss of function of neurons and is a hallmark symptom of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.
Dr. Bussian of Mayo Clinic and his colleagues used mice that have been engineered to express a human protein known as tauP310S in order to mimic human neurodegenerative diseases. Using electron microscopy as well as staining techniques, they found senescence-associated gene expression in astrocytes and microglia, the two main cells of central nervous system. Bussian’s study also found that senescence gene expression, which is responsible for the process of deterioration at the molecular level, increased with age and is highly prevalent before the onset of neurodegeneration. Interestingly, when the researchers removed cells that had this gene expression, symptoms of neurodegeneration were reduced or, in some cases, prevented altogether. Protein buildup associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s was also reduced.
Neurodegenerative diseases are amongst the toughest of diseases to treat Through their work, Dr. Bussian and colleagues have potentially opened up new doors for new approaches to such research. However, further studies are needed to supplement the current research. In this particular study, the researchers removed senescent cells throughout the entire lives of their animals before symptoms even started. A lot of patients, however, are only diagnosed with neurodegenerative disease when their symptoms become noticeable. Therefore, it will be useful to study the effects of removing senescent cells after the onset of the disease.
- T. Bussian, et. al., Clearance of senescent glial cells prevents tau-dependent pathology and cognitive decline. Nature (2018). doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0543-y.
- Image retrieved from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/two-test-tubes-954585/