One extremely promising and emerging field of research is nano-biotechnology. Nano-biotechnology could potentially be an extremely powerful tool in our quest for a longer, healthier life.

Senescent cells are known to be essential in multiple aging processes. Getting rid of these problem cells is, therefore, something we could do to potentially increase our healthy lifespan, and nanoscale robots may help us do just this.

Detecting senescent cells

Senescent cells have different levels of gene expression and mitochondrial function, different epigenetics, and a different secretome profile. Therefore, they secrete specific molecules in specific quantities [1], and this is very important for detecting and targeting them.

The detection and targeting of these senescent cells is somewhat difficult and currently not very precise [1]. This is due to there being different types of senescent cells, including a non-chronic (non-damaging) type as well as changes in senescent cells that also occur in healthy cells. Currently, the most common way to detect senescent cells is by measuring SA-beta-gal activity. SA-beta-gal is an isoform of the beta-galactosidase enzyme (an enzyme normally responsible for the breakdown of sugars known as beta-galactosides). This isoform is widely expressed by senescent cells and is optimally active at pH 6.0, thus making it possible to detect these cells by assaying them for the presence of SA-beta-gal. However, this has major limitations, as SA-beta-gal can be expressed in non-senescent cells under certain conditions and is absent in some senescent cells [2]. Other markers for senescence, such as lipofuscin (pigment granules), have been used, but they also have limitations, such as not being exclusive to senescent cells. Regardless of the limitations, SA-beta-gal is a good marker for senescence until better markers are discovered. Once detected, we have to get to these cells, bind to them specifically, and kill them.

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