Would the growing population of “antivaxxers” say no to a vaccine that prevents aging? How about you? Would you take a vaccine that could slow aging and literally extend your lifespan?
Thanks to some remarkable new research that may be a question on your mind sooner than you think!
A team of researchers in Japan, led by Professor Toru Minamino of Juntendo University, claims to have developed a vaccine that removes senescent cells that build up with age. Much of the focus of current antiaging research is on senescent cells. Readers of my columns should be familiar with senescent cells, but for those who are not, senescent cells are often referred to as “zombie cells” because they are cells that are no longer active, but they are also not quite dead, residing in a kind of arrested state. While these cells no longer engage in the processes of life, they do emit toxins, which build up in the blood and cause many of the conditions we think of as aging – including arterial stiffening and reduced blood flow, which was part of the experiment being done by the Japanese team.
The researchers discovered a protein in senescent cells – glycoprotein nonmetastatic melanoma protein B (GPNMB) – that is present in both humans and mice. Using an amino acid in GPNMB, the research team created a peptide vaccine which enabled the body to create antibodies that attach themselves to senescent cells; once attached, leukocytes finished the job by attaching to the antibodies and removing the senescent cells.
According to the paper which was published in Nature Aging, mice treated with the vaccine demonstrated decreased levels of senescent cells. Which, in effect, means that the team developed a vaccine for aging!
In the experiment, the researchers treated mice that had arterial stiffening with the vaccine; the results showed that many senescent cells were eliminated, and the size of areas afflicted by stiffening became smaller. When the research team used the vaccine on aged mice, their frailty progression was slowed in comparison with unvaccinated mice.
Principal investigator Professor Minamino from Juntendo University said: “We can expect that [the vaccine] will be applied to the treatment of arterial stiffening, diabetes and other aging-related diseases.”
Of course, this is only one study, but it does show proof of the viability of an antiaging vaccine.
As Dr. David Sinclair, well-known Harvard geneticist and antiaging advocate, tweeted: “Okay, this is a big deal: Vaccinations against aging work. Sure, it’s a proof-of-principle study in a rapidly aging mouse, but there’s little doubt this will be possible in us one day.”