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CAR T cells can be reprogrammed to slow down and reverse aging, study finds

Senescent cells (blue) accumulate as we age. CAR T cells can be programmed to seek them out and destroy them. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

The age-old quest for the fountain of youth has been a perennial pursuit throughout history. But what if the secret to anti-aging lies within us?

Recent research from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), led by Assistant Professor Corina Amor Vegas, suggests that our own immune cells, known as T cells, might hold the key to fighting aging.


Through a series of experiments, Amor Vegas and her team have unveiled a promising discovery: T cells can be reprogrammed to combat aging by targeting senescent cells. Senescent cells are cells that cease to replicate as we age, accumulating in our bodies and contributing to harmful inflammation, which is linked to various age-related diseases.

Young mice treated with CAR T cells age slower and have protection from natural aging-associated conditions like obesity and diabetes. The cartoon above shows a young mouse, treated with CAR T cells, who ate a high-fat diet for two months. The charts show that compared to untreated mice on the same diet, the treated mouse had lower body weight. (CREDIT: Nature Aging)

In their study, published in the scientific journal Nature Aging, Amor Vegas and her colleagues demonstrate that by genetically modifying T cells, specifically using a technique involving CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T cells, it's possible to prompt these immune cells to seek out and eliminate senescent cells. This breakthrough holds significant potential for mitigating the onset of age-related ailments.


Amor Vegas elaborates on their findings, highlighting the transformative impact of this approach: "If we give it to aged mice, they rejuvenate. If we give it to young mice, they age slower. No other therapy right now can do this."

This remarkable observation underscores the potential of CAR T cells as a revolutionary anti-aging intervention.


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One of the notable advantages of CAR T cells lies in their longevity. Unlike conventional drugs that require repeated administration, a single dose of CAR T cells administered at a young age can confer lifelong benefits.

This means that individuals treated with CAR T cells may experience sustained protection against common age-related conditions such as obesity and diabetes.


Amor Vegas emphasizes the significance of this longevity aspect, stating, "T cells have the ability to develop memory and persist in your body for really long periods, which is very different from a chemical drug."

Characteristics of senescent uPAR-positive cells in aged tissues. Molecular Signature Database Hallmark 2020 signatures that are significantly enriched in uPAR positive cells vs uPAR negative cells of liver, adipose tissue and pancreas. (CREDIT: Nature Aging)

This unique characteristic positions CAR T cell therapy as a game-changer in the realm of chronic disease management, offering a potential alternative to frequent drug administrations.


While CAR T cell therapy has primarily been utilized in the treatment of blood cancers, receiving FDA approval for this indication in 2017, Amor Vegas's research underscores its broader therapeutic potential beyond cancer.

By harnessing the power of immune cells to combat aging, scientists are inching closer to unlocking the elusive fountain of youth.

Looking ahead, Amor Vegas and her team are exploring whether CAR T cell therapy not only promotes healthier aging but also extends lifespan. If successful, this line of inquiry could represent a significant stride towards realizing the age-old dream of prolonged youthfulness.


With each breakthrough, society edges closer to unraveling the mysteries of aging and unlocking the secrets to a longer, healthier life.

For more science news stories check out our New Innovations section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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