Cellular Senescence: Defining a Path Forward
Cellular senescence is a cell state implicated in various physiological processes and a wide spectrum of age-related diseases. Recently, interest in therapeutically targeting senescence to improve healthy aging and age-related disease, otherwise known as senotherapy, has been growing rapidly. Thus, the accurate detection of senescent cells, especially in vivo, is essential. Here, we present a consensus from the International Cell Senescence Association (ICSA), defining and discussing key cellular and molecular features of senescence and offering recommendations on how to use them as biomarkers. We also present a resource tool to facilitate the identification of genes linked with senescence, SeneQuest (available at http://Senequest.net). Lastly, we propose an algorithm to accurately assess and quantify senescence, both in cultured cells and in vivo.
Cellular Senescence and its Effector Programs
Cellular senescence is a stress response that accompanies stable exit from the cell cycle. Classically, senescence, particularly in human cells, involves the p53 and p16/Rb pathways, and often both of these tumor suppressor pathways need to be abrogated to bypass senescence. In parallel, a number of effector mechanisms of senescence have been identified and characterized. These studies suggest that senescence is a collective phenotype of these multiple effectors, and their intensity and combination can be different depending on triggers and cell types, conferring a complex and diverse nature to senescence. Series of studies on senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) in particular have revealed various layers of functionality of senescent cells in vivo. Here we discuss some key features of senescence effectors and attempt to functionally link them when it is possible.
The Essence of Senescence
Almost half a century after the first reports describing the limited replicative potential of primary cells in culture, there is now overwhelming evidence for the existence of “cellular senescence” in vivo. It is being recognized as a critical feature of mammalian cells to suppress tumorigenesis, acting alongside cell death programs. Here, we review the various features of cellular senescence and discuss their contribution to tumor suppression. Additionally, we highlight the power and limitations of the biomarkers currently used to identify senescent cells in vitro and in vivo.
The Fountain of Youth by Targeting Senescent Cells?
The potential to reverse aging has long been a tantalizing thought, but has equally been considered mere utopia. Recently, the spotlights have turned to senescent cells as being a culprit for aging. Can these cells be therapeutically eliminated? When so? And is this even safe? Recent developments in the tool box to study senescence have made it possible to begin addressing these questions. It will be especially relevant to identify how senescence impairs tissue rejuvenation and to prospectively design compounds that can both target senescence and stimulate rejuvenation in a safe manner. This review argues that to fulfill this niche, cell-penetrating peptides may provide promising therapeutics. As a candidate approach, the author also highlights the potential of targeting individual FOXO signaling pathways to combat senescence and stimulate tissue rejuvenation.
Physiological and pathological consequences of cellular senescence
Cellular senescence, a permanent state of cell cycle arrest accompanied by a complex phenotype, is an essential mechanism that limits tumorigenesis and tissue damage. In physiological conditions, senescent cells can be removed by the immune system, facilitating tumor suppression and wound healing. However, as we age, senescent cells accumulate in tissues, either because an aging immune system fails to remove them, the rate of senescent cell formation is elevated, or both. If senescent cells persist in tissues, they have the potential to paradoxically promote pathological conditions. Cellular senescence is associated with an enhanced pro-survival phenotype, which most likely promotes persistence of senescent cells in vivo. This phenotype may have evolved to favor facilitation of a short-term wound healing, followed by the elimination of senescent cells by the immune system. In this review, we provide a perspective on the triggers, mechanisms and physiological as well as pathological consequences of senescent cells.