ICYMI: Drugs Targeting “Zombie” Cells May Help MS

  • Published12 Jan 2024
  • Author Christine Won
  • Source BrainFacts/SfN
Multiple Sclerosis microscopic image
iStock.com via Artur Plawgo

Senescent cells — or “zombie cells” that stop multiplying but do not die off as they should — may offer treatment targets in multiple sclerosis (MS), a mouse study suggests. The research was presented by Phillip Gross of Georgetown University in November 2023 at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Gross and his colleagues explored the connections between senescent cells, which are hallmarks of aging, and demyelination, which is the loss of myelin (the protective sheath surrounding nerves to enable better communication) that is found in MS.

They found older mice with damaged myelin had a sixfold increase in senescent cell markers compared to younger mice with the same damage. In mice treated with senolytics — a class of drugs targeting senescent cells — there was a 65% boost in the production of a protein that rebuilds damaged myelin.

The findings suggest removing senescent cells may aid the regeneration of damaged myelin, at least in mice.

Big Picture: Senolytics are currently being evaluated in clinical trials and not approved for use in humans. Further research is needed to determine if these findings from the mice study hold promise for people with MS.

Read More: Removing zombie-like cells may help treat multiple sclerosis. New Scientist

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