Chondrocytes became senescent (cellular state associated with aging), and were then targeted for elimination to protect surrounding cartilage.

What the study was about: Scientists need to be able to research how cells become senescent (no longer able to divide normally) with age and after joint injury, but it is challenging to specifically isolate them for further study.  The goal of this study was to develop a tissue culture system that could reproducibly generate a population of senescent cells for further study of their characteristics.

What was found: While many studies use cell culture on plastic dishes to initiate senescence, the researchers found conditions that could induce this phenotype while keeping the cartilage tissue intact. This provides a physiologically relevant system to both study the emergence of senescence and to target senescent cells with drugs in their native tissue environment.

Why it’s important to the medical community: The growing appreciation for senescent cells as a causative factor for many diseases has initiated the search for drugs that effectively kill these cells while keeping healthy cells intact. This work establishes a system for identifying what drugs are most likely to kill senescent cells in cartilage without damaging the surrounding healthy cells.

The research was conducted primarily by Garrett Sessions, a research technician.  Others involved in the project include; Michaela Copp, a graduate student in Biomedical Engineering; Jie-Yu Liu, a former UNC graduate student (Genetics and Molecular Biology); Maggie Sinkler, an MSTAR Student (NIH program for medical students interested in aging research); and Susan D’Costa, a Research Specialist. Brian Diekman, PhD, was the Principal Investigator.

You can access the paper via this link.