Natural Killer Cells

It sounds a bit like a movie title. “Natural Killer Cells”, the new sequel to “Natural Born Killers”. In fact, natural killer cells may form the basis of a new therapy to tackle age-related diseases, among other health problems. A company called “Celularity” just presented the latest results from its research, and they have a lot of potential (

To find the origins of this prospective treatment, we have to look to the placenta. You probably know it best as the organ that helps connect a mother to her fetus, allowing her to provide the oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow. You might not know that it also has medical uses, such as providing tissue for reconstructive procedures (such as healing burns). It’s also an invaluable source of stem cells.

Celularity has been researching the potential health benefits of cells from the placenta for decades. That includes so-called natural killer (NK) cells, a part of our immune system that can destroy other cells that are acting abnormally or harmfully. It includes cells that are cancerous in nature or those infected by a virus. Specifically, they are aimed at what are known as stress ligands.

This new round of research is particularly focused on using this approach to target senescent cells. If you’re at all familiar with longevity science, you’ll know these are the aging cells that multiply as we age, releasing damaging toxins, contributing to inflammation and generally leading to a decline in our health. NK cells don’t just kill senescent cells and stop them from deteriorating further; they remove every trace of them, ensuring no toxins are left floating around your body and there’s plenty of room for new, healthy cells to replace them.

Clearing senescent cells is a big goal of modern anti-aging research. The Celularity approach may be particularly attractive because it relies on cells and processes that already occur naturally in the body. That means there’s less concern that something could go wrong.

All the data gathered by Celularity so far is preclinical, so we’re a long way from a time when you can go to a doctor and ask for this treatment, but the company is looking for partners to help progress their research. That includes exploring its impact on specific organs and maybe even introducing healthy cells to replace the senescent ones that are destroyed.

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