Drug cocktail reduces ageing-associated disc degeneration

Drug cocktail reduces ageing-associated disc degeneration

New York, Sep 3 (IANS) Treatment with a drug cocktail removes ageing cells and reduces disc degeneration, finds a study conducted on mice.

Degeneration of the discs that cushion and support vertebrae, a common occurrence of ageing, is a major contributor to low back pain.

Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University found that two senolytic drugs, dasatinib and quercetin, taken as injections in young age mitigated disc generation in old age.

"Once intervertebral discs start to degenerate, there is very little regeneration that happens," said Makarand Risbud, Professor of Spine Research in orthopaedic surgery.

"But our results show that it is possible to mitigate the disc degeneration that happens with ageing," Risbud added.

The findings are reported in the journal Nature Communications.

While surgery or steroid injections help treat low back pain from disc degeneration, the majority of patients do not meet criteria for surgery and prolonged use of strong painkillers carry the risk of addiction.

The team instead, turned to a class of small molecules known as senolytics. These drugs target cells in the body that are in a process of age-related deterioration called senescence.

With age, every tissue in the body accumulates senescent cells. Senescent cells secrete destructive enzymes and inflammatory proteins that affect nearby healthy cells.

Senolytic drugs remove these deteriorating cells, leaving room for new cells to replace them. The idea is that removing senescent cells from a tissue will improve the tissue's function, the researchers said.

In the study, the team gave young, middle-aged and elderly mice a cocktail of the senolytic drugs, dasatinib and quercetin, every week.

Young and middle-aged mice given the senolytic cocktail showed less disc degeneration and fewer senescent cells by the time they reached an advanced age compared to mice given a placebo.

"The therapy was most effective when we started treating the mice when those senescent cells were just beginning to emerge. Our findings show that if given early, senolytic drugs can actually slow disc degeneration," Risbud said.

But the mice needed a weekly injection from a relatively young age until they reached old age, a much longer time period than senolytic drugs have been given in other uses. The researchers however did not see any deleterious effects of long-term treatment.