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Journal: Aging cell


The healthspan of mice is enhanced by killing senescent cells using a transgenic suicide gene. Achieving the same using small molecules would have a tremendous impact on quality of life and burden of age-related chronic diseases. Here, we describe the rationale for identification and validation of a new class of drugs termed senolytics, which selectively kill senescent cells. By transcript analysis, we discovered increased expression of pro-survival networks in senescent cells, consistent with their established resistance to apoptosis. Using siRNA to silence expression of key nodes of this network, including ephrins (EFNB1 or 3), PI3Kδ, p21, BCL-xL, or plasminogen activated inhibitor-2, killed senescent cells, but not proliferating or quiescent, differentiated cells. Drugs targeting these factors selectively killed senescent cells. Dasatinib eliminated senescent human fat cell progenitors, while quercetin was more effective against senescent human endothelial cells and mouse BM-MSCs. The combination of dasatinib and quercetin was effective in eliminating senescent MEFs. In vivo, this combination reduced senescent cell burden in chronologically aged, radiation-exposed, and progeroid Ercc1(-/Δ) mice. In old mice, cardiac function and carotid vascular reactivity were improved 5 days after a single dose. Following irradiation of one limb in mice, a single dose led to improved exercise capacity for at least 7 months following drug treatment. Periodic drug administration extended healthspan in Ercc1(-/∆) mice, delaying age-related symptoms and pathology, osteoporosis and loss of intervertebral disc proteoglycans. These results demonstrate the feasibility of selectively ablating senescent cells and the efficacy of senolytics for alleviating symptoms of frailty and extending healthspan. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Gene expression, Atherosclerosis, Organism, Copyright, KILL


The process of aging results in a host of changes at the cellular and molecular levels, which include senescence, telomere shortening, and changes in gene expression. Epigenetic patterns also change over the lifespan, suggesting that epigenetic changes may constitute an important component of the aging process. The epigenetic mark that has been most highly studied is DNA methylation, the presence of methyl groups at CpG dinucleotides. These dinucleotides are often located near gene promoters and associate with gene expression levels. Early studies indicated that global levels of DNA methylation increase over the first few years of life and then decrease beginning in late adulthood. Recently, with the advent of microarray and next-generation sequencing technologies, increases in variability of DNA methylation with age have been observed, and a number of site-specific patterns have been identified. It has also been shown that certain CpG sites are highly associated with age, to the extent that prediction models using a small number of these sites can accurately predict the chronological age of the donor. Together, these observations point to the existence of two phenomena that both contribute to age-related DNA methylation changes: epigenetic drift and the epigenetic clock. In this review, we focus on healthy human aging throughout the lifetime and discuss the dynamics of DNA methylation as well as how interactions between the genome, environment, and the epigenome influence aging rates. We also discuss the impact of determining ‘epigenetic age’ for human health and outline some important caveats to existing and future studies.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Molecular biology, Senescence, Epigenetics, DNA methylation


In the coming decades, a massive shift in the aging segment of the population will have major social and economic consequences around the world. One way to offset this increase is to expedite the development of geroprotectors, substances that slow aging, repair age-associated damage and extend healthy lifespan, or healthspan. While over 200 geroprotectors are now reported in model organisms and some are in human use for specific disease indications, the path toward determining whether they affect aging in humans remains obscure. Translation to the clinic is hampered by multiple issues including absence of a common set of criteria to define, select, and classify these substances, given the complexity of the aging process and their enormous diversity in mechanism of action. Translational research efforts would benefit from the formation of a scientific consensus on the following: the definition of ‘geroprotector’, the selection criteria for geroprotectors, a comprehensive classification system, and an analytical model. Here, we review current approaches to selection and put forth our own suggested selection criteria. Standardizing selection of geroprotectors will streamline discovery and analysis of new candidates, saving time and cost involved in translation to clinic.


Oxidative stress has long been associated with aging and has recently been linked to psychiatric disorders, including psychosis and depression. We identified multiple antipsychotics and antidepressants that extend Caenorhabditis elegans lifespan and protect the animal from oxidative stress. Here, we report that atypical antidepressants activate a neuronal mechanism that regulates the response to oxidative stress throughout the animal. While the activation of the oxidative stress response by atypical antidepressants depends on synaptic transmission, the activation by reactive oxygen species does not. Lifespan extension by atypical antidepressants depends on the neuronal oxidative stress response activation mechanism. Neuronal regulation of the oxidative stress response is likely to have evolved as a survival mechanism to protect the organism from oxidative stress, upon detection of adverse or dangerous conditions by the nervous system.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Oxidative stress, Oxidative phosphorylation, Reactive oxygen species, Caenorhabditis elegans, Animal, Hydrogen peroxide


Calorie restriction (CR) remains the most robust intervention to extend lifespan and improve health span. Using a global mass spectrometry-based metabolomic approach, we identified 193 metabolites that were significantly differentially expressed (SDE) in the livers of C57BL/6 mice, fed graded levels of CR (10, 20, 30 and 40% CR) compared to mice fed ad libitum for 12 h a day. The differential expression of metabolites also varied with the different feeding groups. Pathway analysis revealed that graded CR had an impact on carnitine synthesis and the carnitine shuttle pathway, sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) signalling and methionine metabolism. S1P, sphingomyelin and L-carnitine were negatively correlated with body mass, leptin, insulin-like growth factor- 1 (IGF-1) and major urinary proteins (MUPs). In addition, metabolites which showed a graded effect, such as ceramide, S1P, taurocholic acid and L-carnitine, responded in the opposite direction to previously observed age-related changes. We suggest that the modulation of this set of metabolites may improve liver processes involved in energy release from fatty acids. S1P also negatively correlated with catalase activity and body temperature, and positively correlated with food anticipatory activity. Injecting mice with S1P or an S1P receptor 1 agonist did not precipitate changes in body temperature, physical activity or food intake suggesting that these correlations were not causal relationships.

Concepts: Cholesterol, Protein, Metabolism, Nutrition, Liver, Bile, Methionine, Carnitine


Because people age differently, age is not a sufficient marker of susceptibility to disabilities, morbidities, and mortality. We measured nineteen blood biomarkers that include constituents of standard hematological measures, lipid biomarkers, and markers of inflammation and frailty in 4704 participants of the Long Life Family Study (LLFS), age range 30-110 years, and used an agglomerative algorithm to group LLFS participants into clusters thus yielding 26 different biomarker signatures. To test whether these signatures were associated with differences in biological aging, we correlated them with longitudinal changes in physiological functions and incident risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and mortality using longitudinal data collected in the LLFS. Signature 2 was associated with significantly lower mortality, morbidity, and better physical function relative to the most common biomarker signature in LLFS, while nine other signatures were associated with less successful aging, characterized by higher risks for frailty, morbidity, and mortality. The predictive values of seven signatures were replicated in an independent data set from the Framingham Heart Study with comparable significant effects, and an additional three signatures showed consistent effects. This analysis shows that various biomarker signatures exist, and their significant associations with physical function, morbidity, and mortality suggest that these patterns represent differences in biological aging. The signatures show that dysregulation of a single biomarker can change with patterns of other biomarkers, and age-related changes of individual biomarkers alone do not necessarily indicate disease or functional decline.

Concepts: Longitudinal study, Epidemiology, Death, Senescence, Sociology, Ageing, Framingham, Massachusetts, Framingham Heart Study


Aging in many animals is characterized by a failure to maintain tissue homeostasis and the loss of regenerative capacity. In this study, the ability to maintain tissue homeostasis and regenerative potential was investigated in sea urchins, a novel model to study longevity and negligible senescence. Sea urchins grow indeterminately, regenerate damaged appendages and reproduce throughout their lifespan and yet different species are reported to have very different life expectancies (ranging from 4 to more than 100 years). Quantitative analyses of cell proliferation and apoptosis indicated a low level of cell turnover in tissues of young and old sea urchins of species with different lifespans (Lytechinus variegatus, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and Mesocentrotus franciscanus). The ability to regenerate damaged tissue was maintained with age as assessed by the regrowth of amputated spines and tube feet (motor and sensory appendages). Expression of genes involved in cell proliferation (pcna), telomere maintenance (tert) and multipotency (seawi and vasa) was maintained with age in somatic tissues. Immunolocalization of the Vasa protein to areas of the tube feet, spines, radial nerve, esophagus and a sub-population of circulating coelomocytes suggests the presence of multipotent cells that may play a role in normal tissue homeostasis and the regenerative potential of external appendages. The results indicate that regenerative potential was maintained with age regardless of lifespan, contrary to the expectation that shorter lived species would invest less in maintenance and repair.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Senescence, Organism, Cell division, Gerontology, Life expectancy, Aging


The National Institute on Aging Interventions Testing Program (ITP) evaluates agents hypothesized to increase healthy lifespan in genetically heterogeneous mice. Each compound is tested in parallel at three sites, and all results are published. We report the effects of lifelong treatment of mice with four agents not previously tested: Protandim, fish oil, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) and metformin - the latter with and without rapamycin, and two drugs previously examined: 17-α-estradiol and nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA), at doses greater and less than used previously. 17-α-estradiol at a threefold higher dose robustly extended both median and maximal lifespan, but still only in males. The male-specific extension of median lifespan by NDGA was replicated at the original dose, and using doses threefold lower and higher. The effects of NDGA were dose dependent and male specific but without an effect on maximal lifespan. Protandim, a mixture of botanical extracts that activate Nrf2, extended median lifespan in males only. Metformin alone, at a dose of 0.1% in the diet, did not significantly extend lifespan. Metformin (0.1%) combined with rapamycin (14 ppm) robustly extended lifespan, suggestive of an added benefit, based on historical comparison with earlier studies of rapamycin given alone. The α-glucosidase inhibitor, acarbose, at a concentration previously tested (1000 ppm), significantly increased median longevity in males and 90th percentile lifespan in both sexes, even when treatment was started at 16 months. Neither fish oil nor UDCA extended lifespan. These results underscore the reproducibility of ITP longevity studies and illustrate the importance of identifying optimal doses in lifespan studies.

Concepts: Male, Female, Gender, Dose, Sex, Mixture, Gamete, Hermaphrodite


Caloric restriction (CR), a reduction in calorie intake without malnutrition, retards aging in several animal models from worms to mammals. Developing CR mimetics, compounds that reproduce the longevity benefits of CR without its side effects, is of widespread interest. Here, we employed the Connectivity Map to identify drugs with overlapping gene expression profiles with CR. Eleven statistically significant compounds were predicted as CR mimetics using this bioinformatics approach. We then tested rapamycin, allantoin, trichostatin A, LY-294002 and geldanamycin in Caenorhabditis elegans. An increase in lifespan and healthspan was observed for all drugs except geldanamycin when fed to wild-type worms, but no lifespan effects were observed in eat-2 mutant worms, a genetic model of CR, suggesting that life-extending effects may be acting via CR-related mechanisms. We also treated daf-16 worms with rapamycin, allantoin or trichostatin A, and a lifespan extension was observed, suggesting that these drugs act via DAF-16-independent mechanisms, as would be expected from CR mimetics. Supporting this idea, an analysis of predictive targets of the drugs extending lifespan indicates various genes within CR and longevity networks. We also assessed the transcriptional profile of worms treated with either rapamycin or allantoin and found that both drugs use several specific pathways that do not overlap, indicating different modes of action for each compound. The current work validates the capabilities of this bioinformatic drug repositioning method in the context of longevity and reveals new putative CR mimetics that warrant further studies.

Concepts: DNA, Pharmacology, Gene, Gene expression, Caenorhabditis elegans, Caenorhabditis, Model organism, Gerontology


Senescent cells contribute to age-related pathology and loss of function, and their selective removal improves physiological function and extends longevity. Rapamycin, an inhibitor of mTOR, inhibits cell senescence in vitro and increases longevity in several species. Nrf2 levels have been shown to decrease with aging and silencing Nrf2 gene induces premature senescence. Therefore, we explored whether Nrf2 is involved in the mechanism by which rapamycin delays cell senescence. In wild-type (WT) mouse fibroblasts, rapamycin increased the levels of Nrf2, and this correlates with the activation of autophagy and a reduction in the induction of cell senescence, as measured by SA-β-galactosidase (β-gal) staining, senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP), and p16 and p21 molecular markers. In Nrf2KO fibroblasts, however, rapamycin still decreased β-gal staining and the SASP, but rapamycin did not activate the autophagy pathway or decrease p16 and p21 levels. These observations were further confirmed in vivo using Nrf2KO mice, where rapamycin treatment led to a decrease in β-gal staining and pro-inflammatory cytokines in serum and fat tissue; however, p16 levels were not significantly decreased in fat tissue. Consistent with literature demonstrating that the Stat3 pathway is linked to the production of SASP, we found that rapamycin decreased activation of the Stat3 pathway in cells or tissue samples from both WT and Nrf2KO mice. Our data thus suggest that cell senescence is a complex process that involves at least two arms, and rapamycin uses Nrf2 to regulate cell cycle arrest, but not the production of SASP.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cancer, Senescence, Organism, Cell division, Chromosome, DNA repair