Senescent cells, also known as zombie cells, refer to cells that have stopped dividing, but don’t die. They accumulate as people grow old and damage nearby healthy cells, which can lead to age-related diseases such as arterial stiffening. According to a recent Japan Times article, our aging population may soon be able to combat these evil cells with a vaccine.
The vaccine was developed by a team of scientists led by Toru Minamino, a professor at Tokyo’s Juntendo University. They identified a protein found in the zombie cells of humans and mice, and created a peptide vaccine based on an amino acid that comprises that protein. The vaccine makes the body create antibodies that attach to zombie cells. The cells are then removed by white blood cells that adhere to the antibodies, purging the body of the toxic cells. When tested in mice, the vaccine slowed the aging progression relative to unvaccinated mice.