Today, we have a new study showing that a common, plant-based compound could help clear out unwanted senescent cells, which accumulate with age and produce inflammatory signals that drive age-related disease progression.
Taking out the trash
A new study has investigated a natural, plant-based compound for its ability to destroy senescent cells . These cells accumulate with age due to the aging immune system becoming increasingly poor at removing them; this leads to a build-up of these cells and the secretions they produce, which cause chronic inflammation. These proinflammatory secretions are known as the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP).
This inflammation from senescent cells and other sources combines to form “inflammaging”, a chronic smoldering background of inflammation that causes cellular dysfunction, reduces tissue repair, and blocks stem cell activity, thus leading to eventual organ and tissue failure. In a way, senescent cells can be thought of as being like garbage left lying in the street, and their presence harms the local environment, which, in this case, is the adjacent bodily tissues.
Researchers believe that helping the body remove these senescent cells using drugs known as senolytics could be a pathway to preventing age-related diseases and keeping us healthy as we grow older.
The researchers here investigated Solidago virgaurea, also known as goldenrod, which is traditionally used as an anti-inflammatory herbal medicine. This is the first time that extracts from this plant have been studied in relation to cellular senescence.
There is increasing evidence that senescent cells are a driving force behind many age-related pathologies and that their selective elimination increases the life- and healthspan of mice. Senescent cells negatively affect their surrounding tissue by losing their cell specific functionality and by secreting a pro-tumorigenic and pro-inflammatory mixture of growth hormones, chemokines, cytokines and proteases, termed the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP). Here we identified an extract from the plant Solidago virgaurea subsp. alpestris, which exhibited weak senolytic activity, delayed the acquisition of a senescent phenotype and induced a papillary phenotype with improved functionality in human dermal fibroblasts. When administered to stress-induced premature senescent fibroblasts, this extract changed their global mRNA expression profile and particularly reduced the expression of various SASP components, thereby ameliorating the negative influence on nearby cells. Thus, the investigated plant extract represents a promising possibility to block age-related loss of tissue functionality.
The results show that the extract was effective at slowing down the cells’ journey to senescence and could suppress a number of proinflammatory pathways. This may seem impressive at first glance; however, the effect is rather small, and this is a cell culture study. What happens in culture is not always what happens in the body; therefore, these marginal improvements should be taken with a large pinch of salt. In other words, don’t rush out and buy goldenrod supplements based on this initial data.
 Lämmermann, I., Terlecki-Zaniewicz, L., Weinmüllner, R., Schosserer, M., Dellago, H., de Matos Branco, A. D., … & Morizot, F. (2018). Blocking negative effects of senescence in human skin fibroblasts with a plant extract. npj Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, 4(1), 4.