Science  11 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6057, pp. 744

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  1. Cellular Spring Cleaning Slows Aging

    A buildup of old, stagnant cells in the body is to blame for some age-related diseases. In a study published last week in Nature, researchers took aim at senescent cells: cell lines that, after a certain number of divisions, have lost the ability to split. Many begin to secrete immune proteins that scientists hypothesize could cause age-related changes in tissues such as eyes or muscles.

    But Jan van Deursen of the Mayo Research Center in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues developed a way to kill senescent cells in mice by flipping on certain “death genes.” When mice bred for rapid aging got this rejuvenating therapy every 3 days after weaning, they developed cataracts about 100 days later than their untreated cohorts did. And even at an old age, the spinal curvature of these lucky rodents resembled that of much younger mice.

    Treated mice (right) look more youthful.


    The side effects aren't, certain, however, cautions geneticist Norman Sharpless of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the study: “Yes, we might make cataracts better, but will it come with the risk of cancer or infections?”

  2. Targeting Fat Cells

    A husband-and-wife team has discovered a new way to slim down monkeys. More than a decade ago, Renata Pasqualini and Wadih Arap, who run a lab together at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, pioneered a method for identifying ways to target blood vessels in specific tissues with peptides, which could then be hooked up to a drug. One of those peptides, they found, latched on to blood vessels in fat tissue. The result left them wondering whether—by attaching the peptide to a compound that would kill those vessels—they might choke off fat's blood supply, leading to weight loss.

    In 2004, Pasqualini and Arap reported success in mice. This week in Science Translational Medicine, they describe a similar finding in monkeys: Ten obese animals lost between 7% and 15% of their original body weight; control animals didn't lose weight consistently. Side effects were modest and included mild dehydration.

    Next up: a human trial. Ablaris Therapeutics, a company in Pasadena, California, is commercializing the Arap/Pasqualini obesity therapy, and the Food and Drug Administration will review whether to test it in people.