Friday, January 18, 2013

Human enhancement- changing the trajectory of senescence.

A few recent articles have interesting implications for modulating the processes of cellular senescence and cell death that seem to underlie much of the aging phenomenon [1]. In a recent article in CELL, Sharpless and colleagues described a way to visualize senescent cells and tissues in vivo (mice) using luminescence imaging; interestingly tumors were ‘hot spots’ of cell senescence [2]. However, somewhat in contrast to the studies in [1], the CELL paper did not find a tight correlation between degree of senescence and death of the animals (at least from cancer). Thus there may be senescence-related and unrelated causes of death. In the long term better understanding of the kinetics of senescence will ultimately lead to better approaches for influencing the process.

On a different but related theme, a commentary in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery [3] described recent progress in Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics. Although there have been some recent major disappointments, the quest goes on.  A major change in emphasis is to begin to interdict the process of beta-amyloid formation at earlier stages, essentially when no clinical symptoms are present. This seems another example of the blurring line between therapeutics and enhancement of the functions of healthy individuals. No doubt we will see much more of this as our biomedical technology gets increasingly sophisticated.


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