A new paper by Dr Ana O’Loghlen and Juan Antonio Fafián-Labora from the Epigenetics and Cellular Senescence Group at the Blizard Institute, published in the journal Trends in Cell Biology, provides a review of different means of intercellular communication including soluble factors in the context of senescence, ageing and age-related diseases. In this Q&A, Dr O’Loghlen discusses the importance and wider implications of this review.
Intercellular communication refers to the different ways through which cells communicate with each other and transfer a variety of messages. The best characterised means of intercellular communication in ageing is the release of soluble factors. However, there are many other ways by which ageing cells can communicate with each other.
Most of the current literature describing intercellular communication in ageing refers to soluble factors or what is named as “inflammaging”. In this paper, we provide a detailed review where we include other means of intercellular communication in ageing and age-related diseases such as extracellular vesicles, lipids, metabolites, ions or cell-to-cell communication.
It is hypothesised that chronic inflammation is one of the many causes of tissue dysfunction during ageing. At present, one of the most promising therapeutic strategies to prevent age-related tissue dysfunction is the selective pharmacological elimination of senescent cells. However, this strategy can prove challenging, as the intrinsic activation of senescence is needed for many physiological processes such as development, tissue damage repair and wound healing. Thus, an alternative therapeutic approach could be to dampen the secretome released by senescent cells which is thought to be detrimental if not tightly regulated. In fact, dysregulation of the senescent secretome occurs during ageing and in age-related diseases. However, as revised in this study, intercellular communication in senescence is much more complex than initially thought and does not exclusively rely on soluble factors. It is therefore likely that other currently unidentified means of communication exist, highlighting the need for a systematic identification and analysis of alternative means of intercellular communication in senescence, ageing and related diseases.
There are currently several strategies to prevent the damaging effects induced by the presence of senescent cells in ageing and related diseases. One, is to selectively eliminate senescent cells. Another is to block chronic inflammation induced by senescent cells. Although both are promising strategies, we are currently very far from the ideal therapeutic approach as there are many unanswered questions to be addressed.