News from CRG
At the end of their life, having divided fifty or more times, our cells are often eased into retirement. They enter a state of limbo known as senescence, still active but unable to replicate again. Although typically associated with ageing, this phenomenon is also activated by oncogenes (oncogene-induced senescence, OIS) keeping at bay cells that are damaged or dangerous, in order to prevent their spread. Recent research has shown that this can be a crucial cancer-prevention technique, as senescence can be induced in the early stages of cancer development and suppress tumour growth.
Now research from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre (UK) with Spanish contribution from the laboratory of Dr. Salvador Aznar Benitah (ICREA Research professor) at the CRG has unveiled a new quirk: by secreting a cocktail of factors, senescent cells can spread their retired state to other nearby cells.
The research, published in Nature Cell Biology and led by Jesús Gil (Cell Proliferation Group at CSC), is the product of an international collaboration including groups from Germany, Spain, and the UK, and confirms something that has long been suspected, but never proven: that cells can transmit the senescent state to their neighbours. “We’ve known for more than 20 years that senescent cells secrete a lot of factors, but it wasn’t until about a decade ago that people realised this wasn’t a useless by-product or curiosity, but that it could profoundly influence surrounding cells,” says Gil.
CRG press release
Acosta et al, A complex secretory program orchestrated by the inflammasome controls paracrine senescence. Nature Cell Biology, 2013. DOI: 10.1038/ncb2784