Science Finds

a Way to Slow Aging

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School have confirmed that the natural product fisetin, found in many fruits and vegetables, can actually slow aging. Fisetin has been shown to improve health and extend lifespan by reducing the number of damaged cells the body accumulates as it ages.

Senescent cells and aging

As people get older, cells in the body become damaged and enter into a state of senescence. Young people have strong immune systems that are able to clear damaged cells on their own. Older people have slower immune systems that are not able to clear cells with the same efficiency. As a result, these damaged cells, called senescent cells, begin to accumulate, causing inflammation and damaging other nearby cells which were otherwise healthy. Senescent cells inhibit tissue repair and contribute to many age-related diseases. Science has thus set out to find a way to eliminate senescent cells and slow aging.

Fisetin – the anti-aging compound

Recent research carried out by Laura J. Niedernhofer and Paul D. Robbins, from the University of Minnesota Medical School, and researchers from Mayo Clinic confirmed that senescent cells could be eliminated, extending lifespan and improving health, through fisetin, a natural flavonoid found in different amounts in many common fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, apples, persimmons, lotus roots, onions, grapes and kiwi. Fisetin is also a coloring agent responsible for the pigment of fruits and vegetables. The study, “Fisetin is a senotherapeutic that extends health and lifespan,” was recently published in the journal EBioMedicine.

During the study, elderly mice were treated with fisetin, which reduced the number of senescent cells and improved the health and lifespan of the mice. Fisetin was also compared against several other compounds, such as resveratrol, luteolin, rutin, epigallocatechin gallate, curcumin, pirfenidone, myricetin, apigenin, and catechin, but fisetin proved the most successful in destroying senescent cells. Mass cytometry (CyTOF) technology was used to confirm that fisetin actually targets and destroys senescent cells rather than blocking their signals or altering cells in a beneficial way. This was the first time mass cytometry was used in aging research, allowing researchers to demonstrate in detail the effects of fisetin on specific subsets of senescent cells in specific tissues. “In addition to showing that the drug works, this is the first demonstration that shows the effects of the drug on specific subsets of these damaged cells within a given tissue,” Robbins states.

The study also shows that fisetin has no adverse effects even at high doses and is effective in eliminating senescent cells even when treatment is initiated late in life. This suggests that the treatment is safe and could also improve the health and slow the aging process of elderly people. “These results suggest that we can extend the period of health, termed healthspan, even towards the end of life,” said Robbins. “But there are still many questions to address, including the right dosage, for example.”

Many studies support fisetin

Many other animal studies have found that fisetin benefits healthy aging by reducing inflammation, one of the main causes of age-related diseases. It has also been shown that fisetin can fight high blood sugar in diabetics, which causes blood vessels to become inflamed. Still another study at the Salk Institute found that fisetin, curcumin and variants of the two reduced age biomarkers, increased lifespan and reduced dementia in mice and flies.

Even though more long-term data for human use needs to be acquired, the positive effects of fisetin in these studies give a positive outlook for future clinical trials. In fact, a pilot study is currently being conducted by Mayo Clinic to evaluate the effect of periodic fisetin treatment on biologic markers of inflammation and frailty in older postmenopausal women.

Further research and clinical trials must be carried out to determine what doses are beneficial or harmful in humans and how often treatment must be administered in order to produce successful results. Yet the results of the studies already conducted give good reason to believe that current and future trials will be effective in determining how fisetin treatments can be used in slowing the aging process.

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