Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), led by Assistant Professor Corina Amor Vegas, have made a fascinating discovery in the field of anti-aging research. They found that T cells, when genetically modified, can be reprogrammed to combat aging by targeting senescent cells. These cells, which cease to divide, accumulate in the body as we age and are believed to contribute to various age-related diseases.
While current drugs are available to eliminate senescent cells, they often require repeated administration over time. Seeking an alternative solution, Amor Vegas and her team turned to CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T cells, a type of living drug. They successfully manipulated CAR T cells to eliminate senescent cells in mice, resulting in healthier lives for the animals. The mice exhibited lower body weight, improved metabolism and glucose tolerance, and increased physical activity. Importantly, these benefits were achieved without any tissue damage or toxicity. Amor Vegas explains, “If we give it to aged mice, they rejuvenate. If we give it to young mice, they age slower. No other therapy right now can do this.”
One of the remarkable aspects of CAR T cells is their long-lasting effects. The researchers found that a single dose administered during youth could have lifelong benefits. This single treatment could protect against conditions that commonly arise later in life, such as obesity and diabetes. “T cells have the ability to develop memory and persist in your body for really long periods, which is very different from a chemical drug,” says Amor Vegas. “With CAR T cells, you have the potential of getting this one treatment, and then that’s it. For chronic pathologies, that’s a huge advantage. Think about patients who need treatment multiple times per day versus you get an infusion, and then you’re good to go for multiple years.”
CAR T cells have primarily been used for treating blood cancers and gained FDA approval for this purpose in 2017. However, Amor Vegas’ research highlights the broader medical potential of CAR T cells, extending beyond cancer treatment.
The next step for Amor Vegas’ lab is to investigate whether CAR T cells not only promote healthier lives but also extend lifespan. If successful, this research could bring society one step closer to the elusive goal of finding the fountain of youth.
This groundbreaking study provides new insights into the potential of T cell reprogramming and offers hope for novel approaches to counteracting the effects of aging. While the research is still in its early stages, it opens up exciting possibilities for future anti-aging therapies.