A natural compound found in fruits like apples, strawberries, and vegetables can slow down the aging process, according to a new study.
A cell is no longer able to divide when it enters the cellular senescence, which is the major stage in the aging process. At this stage, the cell releases inflammatory signals that triggers the immune system to get rid of that damaged cell.
Younger bodies can easily remove senescent cells. However, the body system finds it difficult to do this as a person advances in age. As a result, there’s an accumulation of damaged cells, which leads to low-level inflammation and then tissue breakup.
In a previous study, researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, observed that senolytics (molecules that target and destroy senescent cells to slow down the aging process), can successfully extend an individual’s lifespan and improve their health.
Some of the scientists involved in this study — including Prof. Paul D. Robbins, from the University of Minnesota — teamed up again in order to try to identify which senolytics would be the most effective in slowing down aging processes.
The new findings now appear in the journal EBioMedicine.
The compound that reduces aging
The research team tested 10 flavonoids, which are naturally occurring compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, in aging mice.
The team of researchers lead by Prof. Edgar Arriaga, from the University of Minnesota, settled on using mass cytometry (a method that allows researchers to tag specific features of cells and track their activity), in this kind of research for the first time.
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Out of all the compounds they examined, one that was most effective was fistein, which naturally occurs in many fruits and vegetables including cucumbers, onions, strawberries, and apples.
When treating aging mice with fistein, the team saw that it reduced the levels of senescent cells in the animals, prolonging their lifespan and contributing to better health.
“These results suggest,” points out Prof. Robbins, “that we can extend the period of health, termed healthspan, even towards the end of life.”
However, he adds that this is just the first step of a much longer research.
This is an important first step that had not been explored before. It had been difficult to conclude how such compounds would affect different types of tissue and different types of cell in the body of an aging individual.
This meant that there was virtually no way of telling whether particular senolytics actually targeted senescent cells, in particular.