Scientists at the Queen Mary University of London are one step closer to understanding the ageing process, after finding a protein to have a previously unknown role.
 
The organs and tissues in our bodies are formed by a vast number of cells, which together co-ordinate their actions for our body to function properly. 
 
However, the team at Queen Mary turned their attention to a number of 'abnormal' cells found in older patients and those in the initial stages of cancer.  
These particular cells suffer a growth arrest termed ‘senescence’, which is thought to affect how the tissue functions. Senescent cells fail to reproduce, but they do communicate with their neighboring cells through the release of proteins. 
 
It was this communication that Dr Ana O'Loghlen and her team looked at.
 
Dr O'Loghlen, Epigenetics & Cellular Senescence Group Lecturer said:
"So, it is known that if this has an accumulating in healthy ageing, if you take away this cell then the tissue and the organism become a bit younger and this has been found by other groups so we hope that learning how this protein work and these normal cells could lead to therapeutic targets for cancer and ageing. So, what we would like to do is we would like to investigate if this protein how this protein and regulates the release of other proteins from these abnormal cells and we would like to use animal models to study this whether has an influence in early stages of cancer and ageing.
 
This experiment is the first time that the protein 'integrin beta 3' has been identified in the context of senescence and ageing...discovery could potentially unlock new ways of treating cancer or arresting the ageing process." 
 
The results are published in the latest Cell Reports