A natural compound found in many fruits and vegetables may help fight ageing by reducing the level of damaged cells in the body, scientists have found.
As people age, they accumulate damaged cells which at a certain level go through an ageing process of their own, called cellular senescence, said researchers at the University of Minnesota in the US.
The cells also release inflammatory factors that tell the immune system to clear those damaged cells.
A younger person's immune system is healthy and is able to clear the damaged cells. However, as people age, they are not cleared as effectively.
They begin to accumulate, cause low level inflammation and release enzymes that can degrade the tissue.
The study, published in the journal EBioMedicine, found that a natural product, called Fisetin, reduces the level of these damaged cells in the body.
The researchers treated mice towards the end of life with this compound and analysed improvement in health and lifespan.
"These results suggest that we can extend the period of health, termed healthspan, even towards the end of life," said Paul D Robbins from the University of Minnesota Medical School.
"But there are still many questions to address, including the right dosage, for example," Robbins said.
There were always key limitations when it came to figuring out how a drug will act on different tissues, different cells in an aging body, researchers said.
There was no way to identify if a treatment was actually attacking the particular cells that are senescent, until now, they said.
The team, including Edgar Arriaga, a professor at the University of Minnesota, used mass cytometry, or CyTOF, technology and applied it for the first time in ageing research.
"In addition to showing that the drug works, this is the first demonstration that shows the effects of the drug on specific subsets of these damaged cells within a given tissue," Robbins said.