Fighting zombie cells for a better and longer life

In our "How does aging work" posts (part 1 and part 2), we discussed that, despite its obvious complexity and individual variations, aging has some common hallmarks, which includes:


DNA alterations

Telomere attrition

Cellular senescence

Mitochondrial degeneration.


Recently, another aspect of aging has also been uncovered: aging can be contagious between cells. We talked about it very briefly in the previous posts, but upcoming news made us revisit the theme since it is core to our mission. 


It turns out that, as time passes, DNA alterations, telomere attrition and so forth accumulate, resulting in increasing numbers of damaged cells, also called "senescent" or zombie cells. These cells are responsible for many effects of organismal aging. As we age, not only do cells stop dividing, but they also start producing inflammatory molecules and influence their neighbors, acting like bad apples in the basket.


Because of this contagious aspect of cellular aging, scientists have discovered that unaged cells can still end up aged, if influenced by previously aged (or zombie) cells [1]. It has also been shown that the zombie influence in a cell's microenvironment may even facilitate cancer progression [2]! This means that if aging is "contagious", then containing the plague could actually be an effective way to keep yourself healthy while you age!


In order to prove the influence of senescent cells, small numbers of zombie cells were introduced to young mice. As expected, it turned out that this procedure was enough to cause the onset of several aspects of aging, such as physical dysfunction and shorter survival [4]. This adds to the hypothesis that a short number of zombie cells may override young organisms and accelerate their aging.


Luckily for us, scientists have also shown that by flushing out the zombie cells in aged mice, they were able to delay age-associated disorders, such as sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) and cataracts [3]. Their physical function was also preserved and these mice lived longer [4]. Therefore, this approach was shown to promote a healthier and longer life in mice. 


Now you may be asking yourself, "where can I get this zombie killing drug?" You may not have to wait too long, because some of such compounds, now named senolytics, have started to be clinically tested for specific diseases, such as osteoarthritis and idiopathic lung fibrosis. But what about the skin? 


This leads us to OneSkin's pursuits. OneSkin is one of the first companies focusing on eliminating zombie cells in the skin, and we're making great strides. Our CEO has talked a little bit about our approach to fighting skin aging, if you want to check it out, click here


Keep tuned to our blog, and we will tell you more about our journey to fight zombie cells in the skin. And of course, if you are interested in our product line, leave your email in the Newsletter box to receive notification alert when it's launched! 


- Posted by Juliana Lott de Carvalho. Juliana is one of OneSkin co-founders and a professor at the University of Brasilia. She is completely passionate about stem cell and skin biology, alternative methods for animal experiments and aging. Mother of Fiona, a chubby english bulldog.



1. Childs BG, Durik M, Baker DJ, van Deursen JM. Cellular senescence in aging and age-related disease: from mechanisms to therapy [Internet]. Nature Medicine. 2015. pp. 1424-1435. doi:10.1038/nm.4000

2. Coppé J-P, Desprez P-Y, Krtolica A, Campisi J. The senescence-associated secretory phenotype: the dark side of tumor suppression. Annu Rev Pathol. 2010;5: 99-118.

3. Baker DJ, Wijshake T, Tchkonia T, LeBrasseur NK, Childs BG, van de Sluis B, et al. Clearance of p16Ink4a-positive senescent cells delays ageing-associated disorders. Nature. 2011;479: 232-236.

4. Xu M, Pirtskhalava T, Farr JN, Weigand BM, Palmer AK, Weivoda MM, et al. Senolytics improve physical function and increase lifespan in old age. Nat Med. 2018;24: 1246-1256.

OneSkin Team

OneSkin Team

By being able to reprogram the "code of life", we will create new ways of living, and new ways of growing older. OneSkin is developing solutions to enable people to age better, healthier, and with better quality of life. Our mission is to promote people's access to effective anti-aging products, so they can feel and age at their best.

May 15, 2019

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