A pioneering research endeavor, spearheaded by Professor Ja Hyoung Ryu from UNIST’s Department of Chemistry, in collaboration with Professor Hyewon Chung from Konkuk University, has achieved a major milestone in the quest to combat age-related diseases. Their state-of-the-art technology promises a fresh perspective on tackling these ailments by selectively eradicating aging cells while leaving healthy cells untouched. This groundbreaking advancement is poised to reshape the landscape of healthcare and usher in a new era of precisely targeted therapeutic solutions.

As people age, senescent cells, commonly referred to as aging cells, play a significant role in contributing to various inflammatory conditions and age-related maladies. To address this formidable challenge, the research team set their sights on developing a technology capable of accurately homing in on and eliminating aging cells, all while preserving the vitality of normal healthy cells. Their study revolved around the creation of organic molecules tailored to specifically target receptors that are excessively expressed on the membranes of aging cells. These molecules harnessed the heightened levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) found in aging cells, thereby promoting the formation of disulfide bonds and generating oligomers that bind together.

Through the self-assembly of these oligomers, the researchers ingeniously crafted artificial proteins sporting a stable α-helix secondary structure. These protein-like nanoassemblies demonstrated a remarkable binding affinity to the mitochondrial membranes of aging cells, leading to membrane disruption and subsequent self-destruction of these cells.

Professor Ryu expressed, “Our experiments have successfully showcased the selective removal of aging cells through the precise targeting of mitochondria and the induction of dysfunction. This innovative approach heralds a fresh paradigm for addressing age-related diseases.” This groundbreaking technology offers a multitude of advantages, including minimal toxicity concerns and a broad therapeutic window, thanks to its pinpoint focus on organelles within cells. This opens up an exciting realm of possibilities for designing both preclinical and clinical trials in the near future.

By Impact Lab