Mice live longer with cell therapy

AGE STAGE By about 2 years old, mice that age normally (back left) are hunchbacked and nearly blind. A treatment that removes decrepit “senescent” cells makes mice the same age (front right) healthier: They look and act younger and live longer. Photo: Mayo Clinic

From Science News:

Removing worn-out cells makes mice live longer and prosper

Antiaging treatment shows promise for lengthening life span

By Tina Hesman Saey

1:00pm, February 3, 2016

Killing worn-out cells helps middle-aged mice live longer, healthier lives, a new study suggests.

Removing those worn-out or “senescent” cells increased the median life span of mice from 24 to 27 percent over that of rodents in which senescent cells built up normally with age, Mayo Clinic researchers report online February 3 in Nature. Clearing senescent cells also improved heart and kidney function, the researchers found.

If the results hold up in people, they could lead to an entirely new way to treat aging, says gerontology and cancer researcher Norman Sharpless at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. Most prospective antiaging treatments would require people to take a drug for decades. Periodically zapping senescent cells might temporarily turn back the clock and improve health for people who are already aging, he says. “If this paper is right, I believe it will be one of the most important aging papers ever,” Sharpless says.

Senescent cells are ones that have ceased to divide and do their usual jobs. Instead, they hunker down and pump out inflammatory chemicals that may damage surrounding tissues and promote further aging. “They’re zombie cells,” says Steven Austad, a biogerontologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. ”They’ve outlived their usefulness. They’re bad.”

Cancer biologist Jan van Deursen of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues devised the strategy for eliminating senescent cells by making the cells commit suicide. A protein called p16 builds up in senescent cells, the researchers had previously discovered. The team hooked up a gene for a protein that causes cells to kill themselves to DNA that helps turn on p16 production, so that whenever p16 was made the suicide protein was also made.

The suicide protein needs a partner chemical to actually kill cells, though. Once mice were a year old — 40 to 60 years old in human terms — the researchers started injecting them with the partner chemical. Mice got injections about every three days for six months. Mice that got the cell-suicide cocktail were compared with genetically engineered mice that were injected with a placebo mix.

Senescent cells were easier to kill in some organs than others, the researchers found. Colon and liver senescent cells weren’t killed, for instance. But age-related declines in the function of organs in which the treatment worked — eyes, fat, heart and kidney —were slowed.

Genetic engineering and regular shots would not be feasible for use in people, but several companies are developing drugs that might clear the zombie cells from humans, Austad says. Some side effects to the treatment in mice also would be important to consider if those drugs are ever used in people. Senescent cells have previously been shown to be needed for wound healing, and mice that got the killing cocktail couldn’t repair wounds as well as those that didn’t get the treatment. Once treatment stopped, the mice were able to heal normally again. That result suggests that people undergoing senescent-cell therapy might need to stop temporarily to heal wounds from surgery or accidents.

Previously, the researchers had killed senescent cells in mice with a mutation that caused them to age prematurely (SN: 12/3/11, p. 11). Removing the worn-out cells helped the prematurely old mice live longer, but other researchers weren’t convinced that the results applied to normal aging. “It’s great when you find something that helps prevent premature aging, but there’s always this nagging doubt,” says Judith Campisi, a researcher at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif. It’s gratifying that the treatment works to extend life and health in normally aging animals, she says.

Campisi also studies the effect of senescent cells on aging, but doesn’t think the cells are entirely to blame for the ills of old age. “We don’t believe senescence is the only thing that drives aging,” she says. “That would be stupid. If this were the magic bullet, Jan’s mice would live forever, but they don’t.”

Flint, USA people refuse payment for poisonous water

This video from Michigan in the USA says about itself:

Flint residents protest paying for poisoned water

25 January 2016

Residents of Flint staged a demonstration in front of the city hall today in protest of both the high rates for water and the recent shutoff notices that have been sent out. After almost two years with poisoned tap water, thousands of residents are facing shutoff of their water completely.

Nothing has been resolved with Flint water. Lead levels still make the water unsafe to drink and thousands, particularly children who are the most vulnerable, have been exposed to lead poisoning. Residents must rely on bottled water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. Yet the water rates are among the highest in the country.

In the context of reports of the poisoning of residents of Flint, Michigan due to lead contamination in the city’s water supply, recent studies have shown lead contamination to be a widespread problem in cities and towns throughout the United States. The populations of major cities such as New Orleans, Baltimore, Boston and Detroit are exposed to elevated levels of lead contamination in their homes, soil and water supply: here.

THE NEXT FLINT, MICHIGAN Inside the Ohio town that now fears its water may be contaminated. [AP]

As the water crisis in Flint, Michigan continues to occupy national headlines in the United States, scientists and environmental officials have revealed a dirty secret of American life: the poisoning of drinking water with toxic chemicals is not unique to Flint, Michigan, but takes place all over the country: here.

New evidence has emerged that challenges the official explanation of why Flint’s state-appointed emergency manager decided to end the city’s half-century practice of buying water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD). While the move was explained as a cost-cutting measure, an April 2013 email surfaced this week revealing that DWSD officials offered to sharply reduce rates to Flint, with a potential cost saving of hundreds of millions: here.

Documents reveal that the administration of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has been providing state workers in Flint with bottled water for over a year. The revelation came from examination of an internal email sent out to state workers by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) back in January 2015. This notice, sent out long before any officials publicly acknowledged a health hazard, cited a contamination problem within the Flint water supply: here.

Federal and state officials are warning Flint residents that the lead filters they are using may be inadequate to protect them from the effects of elevated levels of lead in the city’s drinking water: here.

A just-released series of emails sent to a staff member of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in early March demonstrate that his administration knew about the relation of Flint River water to the spread of the deadly Legionnaires’ virus at least 10 months before the governor publically announced it: here.

Hundreds of students, faculty and community members gathered into a lecture hall at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health in Ann Arbor on Wednesday to hear Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha deliver a talk on the roots and the devastating social impact of the Flint water crisis: here.

Half a million US kids are poisoned by lead each year. crisis was just the beginning: here.

As its hometown of Flint remains poisoned, General Motors makes record 2015 profit: here.