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Axing molecular zombies may slow aging

Killing off dormant cells in mice slows their decline

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2:10pm, November 2, 2011

Cells that have stopped dividing but still linger in the body secrete harmful molecules that contribute to diseases related to aging, a new study in mice finds. Removing these dormant cells, called senescent cells, may help delay and even prevent many of the bothersome and painful ailments that afflict the elderly.

“Senescent cells act like demon seed and kill everything around them,” says physiologist James Kirkland of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.These senescent cells menace their healthy neighbors and drive the biological processes that cause common age-associated maladies such as cataracts, loss of muscle mass and deterioration of the skin, Kirkland and his American and Dutch colleagues suggest online November 2 in Nature.

When a cell’s DNA becomes damaged by things like ultraviolet radiation or toxins, the cell will often enter a senescent state as a precautionary measure against the cancerous growth that can result fro

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