_TECHNOLOGY Biology

_Aging Secret

A study of sleeping human cells suggests that the body is hardwired to respond to aging with the same pro-survival tactics it uses to fight off infections.

_Andres Kriete

Kriete is associate dean for academic affairs and an associate teaching professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems.

Acentral riddle in the science of aging is that if the human body has evolved to protect itself, why can’t cells cope with the challenges of getting old?

A study of quiescent (sleeping) human cells suggests that the body is hardwired to respond to aging with the same tactics it uses to fight off infections. Drexel researchers and colleagues at Thomas Jefferson University created an in vitro model to study quiescent cells — those that are not dividing and are most common in the body — and found that energetically stressed cells showed a signaling profile associated with cell survival inflammation. The results suggest that the body handles aging with a strategy similar to the way it fights off acute bacterial and viral infections. Findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics.

The cellular instinct to survive acute challenges does not bode well for the ability to deal with long-term chronic stresses, according to the study’s principal investigator.

“If cells are energetically stressed over longer periods of time, the survival response also impairs genome maintenance, which may explain why age is a risk factor for cancer,” Professor Andres Kriete says.