T-Cell Reprogramming To Combat Aging May Have Potential “Lifelong Effects”

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

For centuries, explorers have sought the elusive fountain of youth, yet it appears that the key to anti-aging may have been within us all along.

Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), led by Corina Amor Vegas, have made a groundbreaking discovery: T cell, a type of white blood cell, can be reprogrammed to combat aging with potentially “lifelong effects.”

Through precise genetic modifications, these T cells can target senescent cells, a group of cells believed to contribute to various age-related diseases. Senescent cells cease replicating as we age, leading to harmful inflammation and the onset of diseases.

While existing drugs can eliminate senescent cells, they often require repetitive administration over time. Seeking an alternative, Amor Vegas and her team turned to CAR T cells (chimeric antigen receptor), a type of “living” drug.

Their study, published in the journal Nature Aging, demonstrated that CAR T cells could effectively eradicate senescent cells in mice. The treated mice showed significant improvements in health, including reduced body weight, enhanced metabolism and glucose tolerance, and increased physical activity – all without any tissue damage or toxicity.

“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,” said Assistant Professor Amor Vegas.

What makes CAR T cells particularly promising is their longevity. A single dose administered at a young age was found to have enduring effects, offering protection against common age-related conditions like 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. 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,” explained Amor Vegas.

This suggests that patients who previously required frequent treatments could potentially receive a single infusion and remain protected for years.

While CAR T cells have been predominantly utilized in the treatment of blood cancers, receiving FDA approval for this purpose in 2017, Amor Vegas’s research indicates a broader medical potential for these cells beyond cancer therapy.

Currently, her lab is investigating whether CAR T cells not only promote healthier lives but also extend lifespan in mice. Should similar results be observed in humans, the implications could be profound, potentially unlocking the true fountain of youth.