These cells earned the moniker of zombie cells because they do not die. They also do not function like their regular counterparts. Instead, senescent cells increase in number inside tissues as an organism gets older.
Senescent cells are responsible for putting an end to the growth and reproduction of cells. They also halt the production of proteins that serve as building blocks for new cellular structures. They also make other cells more vulnerable to apoptosis, the natural process of cell death. And they hamper the metabolism of healthy cells and tissues, reducing their functions and weakening the health of the organism.
Researchers are working to understand the secrets of senescent cells. If these cells can be prevented from forming or functioning, it may be possible to slow down the effects of aging. (Related: Top 10 anti-aging foods to nourish your skin from the inside.)
In a similar vein to how horror movie zombies spread infection by biting people, senescent cells release enzymes that harm healthy cells around them. These protein-based compounds cause damage to the DNA that holds a cell's genetic template and the mitochondria structures that provide energy for cellular processes.
At particular risk are the stem cells that can transform into any tissue. The role of these cells is to repair and regenerate damaged parts of the body. By taking out stem cells, senescent cells prevent proper healing and recovery of injured tissues.
Against DNA, the enzymes of senescent cells specifically target the protective telomeres that cover the ends of DNA strands. Large numbers of cells with DNA strands that sport damaged or excessively short telomeres serve as signs of age-related degeneration.
Last but not least, senescent cells trigger bouts of chronic inflammation. While inflammation is a natural response of the immune system to pathogens, it can also harm healthy cells if it lasts long after the infection or injury gets healed.
Chronic inflammation is triggered by chronic stress, eating alcohol and sugar-heavy foods, and exposure to harmful substances like toxins and radiation. It is strongly related to serious health issues such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
People who want to slow down aging need ways to manage chronic inflammation. Fortunately, there are many natural methods to regulate inflammatory responses. These drug-free anti-aging techniques can even reverse the degeneration of cells and tissues.
Take health supplements that improve the functions of the body. As seen in a 2014 scientific paper by a The Ohio State University College of Medicine research team, omega-3 fatty acids can extend the length of telomeres.
Astaxanthin and quercetin are also good candidates for supplements. They are powerful antioxidants that prevent oxidative stress associated with aging.
Stay on top of stress so that your immune system remains active and in control of its inflammatory responses. Deep breathing and physical exercise are two effective techniques for reducing anxiety and stress levels.
Aim for healthy body weight and keep it that way. High body fat correlates to elevated levels of inflammation, so preventing obesity may decrease the risk of chronic diseases.
In support of the previous goal, adopt a healthy diet. Eat more good foods like fruits and vegetables. At the same time, avoid heavily processed foods and sugar-rich products.