New research for personalized cancer treatment

University researchers have discovered a new way of identifying ‘zombie’ cells which drive aging and age-related diseases such as cancer, cardiac disease and neurodegenerative diseases.

A team at the University of Dundee, working in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Athens, have developed a novel compound to detect senescent cells.

Senescent cells are coined ‘zombie’ cells as they are still alive within the body, but do not function as normal. These cells are no longer capable of dividing and can negatively impact the cells around them, over time weakening our tissues, organs and immune system, and can lead to aging and disease.

The newly developed compound, named GLF16, targets a pigment within these cells that is associated with aging. The pigment, lipofuscin, is a type of cellular waste that increases as we get older.

This is the first time it has been possible to identify these cells in real time as the compound can be used in living tissues and cells, meaning senescence can be visualised as it happens.

The discovery opens new possibilities for studying how these cells, which increase in our bodies as we age, cause age-related diseases and can ultimately help develop treatments that revitalise aging tissues and organs, increasing the years of our lives where we remain healthy.

The research has been published in the journal Molecular Cell.