Research Snapshot: Drs. Vivekananda Budamagunta and Thomas Foster

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By Todd Taylor

Senescent cells in the brain may contribute to neurodegenerative diseases, and a new preclinical study led by University of Florida researchers has added to this growing line of research. The team reported that removal of these cells beginning in a middle-aged rat model and extending to old age led to reduced systemic inflammation and lessened cognitive decline.

Senolytics are a class of drugs that selectively clear senescent cellsaged cells that stop dividing but don’t die off. These cells may play a role in inflammation and age-related disease development. The research team administered two senolytic drugs, one that enters the brain and one that does not. The two drugs had similar effects, improving most measures associated with aging in the rats, including memory and inflammation in the brain and blood.

“The results indicate a major influence of peripheral senescent cells on the brain, such that much of the inflammation in the brain during aging and subsequent impairment in memory is driven by these inflammatory molecules in the blood, which can enter the brain,” said Thomas Foster, Ph.D., a senior author on the study published in the journal Aging Cell.

The study was led by Foster, a UF professor of neuroscience and Evelyn F. McKnight Chair for Research on Cognitive Aging and Memory, and Vivekananda Budamagunta, Ph.D., a former graduate student in Foster’s lab.

Senolytic drugs are in need of extensive study for safety and effectiveness as a therapeutic targetin humans. Foster hopes this new study will encourage researchers to consider ways to initiate treatment prior to the emergence of disease.

“Similar to diet or exercise, we believe senolytic drugs could potentially delay the onset or severity of these diseases and potentially counteract the long-term negative influences associated with a history of infection,” he said.

Read the paper in Aging Cell.