Vaccine is a buzzword right now for an obvious reason. Now, scientists claim they have a vaccine against aging. Is it true, and what’s the science behind this new shot?
The researchers behind the shot call it a vaccine because it causes the body to create antibodies like a vaccine. But, it’s not truly vaccinating anyone against aging. The antibodies attach themselves to “zombie cells” that accumulate with age. The body’s own white blood cells then remove the cells.
“Zombie cells” are really called senescent cells. They get their nickname because they are cells that stop dividing but don’t die. The problem with them is that they release chemicals that harm healthy cells by causing inflammation.
The study was performed in mice, not humans. The mice who got the shot showed signs of aging more slowly than their unvaccinated counterparts. There are already treatments for senescent cells on the market. But the injection appeared, according to the researchers, to have fewer side effects and last longer.
The lead professor on the research wrote that “We can expect that [the vaccine] will be applied to the treatment of arterial stiffening, [blood sugar problems] and other aging-related diseases.”
This research is exciting. However, it’s important to remember that animal studies don’t always translate into humans. Moreover, we question how much this is going to cost. It’s wonderful to hear about a study looking at improving the quality of later life rather than just extending life. Often a study is trying to make people live longer without worrying about health in those later years. The fact that this appears to improve the health of older animals is great. But, we don’t know yet if it means anything for people.
It’s also important to remember that aging is connected to so many factors like everything else in the body. Removing one type of cell won’t stop all health problems. “The biological process of aging is very complex, therefore it is unlikely that one single strategy will completely stop it or reverse it. However, there are probably many ways to slow it down, and clearing senescent cells seems to be one of the easiest and potentially more effective,” said Dr. Salvador Macip of the Univ. of Leicester, an expert on aging. He studies senescent cells but did not work on this research.
So, no, the headlines claiming there is a vaccine for aging aren’t entirely true. However, this research and the injection are promising. This work could lead to healthier aging and may help slow the effects aging has on health.