Steve Elledge, PhD, of the Division of Genetcis, and colleagues report that a key molecule, GATA4, appears to be the switch that flips on inflammation in senescence cells. The team report its findings in a paper published in Science.

The accumulation of senescent cells in our bodies is thought to contribute to age-related diseases.  Researchers have hypothesized that this is due to the fact that aging cells activate a secretory process that increases inflammation as we age, but how these cells do that is not well understood.

In their latest paper, Elledge and his colleagues report on a key molecule, GATA4, that flips the switch in senescent cells to turn on inflammation.  The researchers report that this protein accumulated in all organs examined or in response to stimuli that induce senescence, including DNA damage. One of the team’s key finding is that this protein turns on in over 50 percent of neural cells in aging brains.

“Because accumulation of senescent cells is thought to promote aging and aging associated diseases through the resulting inflammatory response, inhibiting the GATA4 pathway may provide an avenue for therapeutic intervention,” the authors write.