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Scientists are still trying to get CAR-T cells to work as well in solid tumors as they do in blood cancers, but the genetically engineered immune cells just might have a superpower beyond oncology. In mice, researchers reported on Wednesday in Nature, CAR-T cells can eliminate the senescent cells partly responsible for many diseases of aging.

If the results hold up, they could add another candidate to a growing list of “senolytics,” experimental drugs that destroy senescent cells. A growing pile of mouse studies show that removing these decrepit and dysfunctional cells postpones or even reverses diseases of old age — and extends life span. The possibility that senolytics could do that in people has jump-started what analysts say could become a multibillion-dollar industry, with clinical trials already underway.


“I think their paper is incredibly exciting and adds to the senolytics armamentarium,” said James Kirkland of the Mayo Clinic, who discovered that giving old mice compounds that destroy senescent cells makes the animals live longer and without the usual diseases of old age. “It could be another way to pharmacologically target senescent cells, but that will depend on safety, cost, and other factors.”

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