‘Zombie cells’ in the body tied to aging may actually help heal tissue damage

microscopy image shows senescent cells with membranes shown in glowing pink and nuclei marked in light blue; many cells have two or more nuclei

“Zombie cells” that contribute to age-related diseases also help heal damaged tissues, so wiping them out could come with major downsides, a new study suggests. 

The zombies, scientifically known as “senescent” cells, are cells that stop multiplying due to damage or stress but don’t die, according to the National Institute on Aging (opens in new tab). Instead, these cells release a slew of molecules that summon immune cells and spark inflammation. The immune system clears these zombies from the body, but with age, it becomes less efficient; thus, the cells accumulate and drive inflammation that contributes to diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoarthritis. 

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