A groundbreaking achievement in the battle against age-related diseases has been unlocked by a research team led by Professor Ja Hyoung Ryu of UNIST’s Chemistry Department, in collaboration with Professor Hyewon Chung from Konkuk University. Their cutting-edge breakthrough introduces a promising new avenue for combatting age-related ailments—selectively eliminating aging cells while leaving healthy ones untouched. This achievement marks a significant milestone in healthcare, heralding a fresh era of targeted therapeutic strategies.
Senescent cells, those cells that accumulate with age, are notorious for contributing to various inflammatory conditions and age-related illnesses. To tackle this problem, the research team embarked on a mission to craft a technology capable of precisely targeting and eliminating aging cells while safeguarding their healthy counterparts.
In their study, the team engineered organic molecules with a unique affinity for receptors that are overexpressed in the membranes of aging cells. Leveraging the higher levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) found in these aging cells, these molecules orchestrated the formation of disulfide bonds, giving birth to oligomers that naturally clung together. This research, now documented in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, showcases their ingenuity.
Through the self-assembly of these oligomers, the researchers ingeniously engineered artificial proteins featuring a robust α-helix secondary structure. These protein-like nanoassemblies demonstrated an exceptional ability to bind firmly to the mitochondrial membranes of aging cells, causing membrane disruption and ensuing cell self-destruction.
Professor Ryu enthusiastically affirmed, “Our experiments have successfully demonstrated the selective elimination of aging cells through the precise targeting of mitochondria and the induction of dysfunction. This novel approach ushers in a new era in the treatment of age-related diseases.”
The brilliance of this pioneering technology extends to its minimal toxicity concerns and an extensive therapeutic window, as it homes in on cell organelles with pinpoint accuracy. This innovation paves the way for exciting prospects in designing future preclinical and clinical trials.