Nutrition Notes

Agents for Healthy Aging: Botanicals to Target Cell Senescence

A recent topic of research involving cellular senescence is a potential driver of many processes leading to age-related diseases (ARDs). Cellular senescence refers to the process by which certain cells may become resistant to apoptosis, may undergo irreversible replicative arrest, or may have increased metabolic activity when stressed or damaged. There are multiple reasons for cells to become senescent, which include misfolded proteins, DNA damage, telomere dysfunction, oncogene activation, protein aggregates, replicative stress, and failed protein removal. Senescent cells (SCs) have been shown to develop certain deleterious phenotypes that can include chemokines, pro-inflammatory cytokines, and extracellular matrix-degrading proteins. 

Studies suggest that even a relatively small quantity of SCs may cause tissue dysfunction. Although a rare occurrence in younger individuals, SCs increase in the older population in many of the tissues within the human body during the aging process. Recent research suggests that certain botanicals may support cellular health, a healthy response to inflammation, and the body’s potential to clear SCs.

Panax notoginseng (PNS) is a botanical used for centuries in Chinese medicine that has been shown to have senolytic or SC-targeting properties. PNS saponins have been shown to support the body’s response to oxidative stress, restore mitochondrial membrane potential, and protect against certain cellular damage.

An animal study assessed the efficacy of PNS on damaged mitochondria. Increased levels of superoxide dismutase, glutathione, adenosine triphosphate, attenuated levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and nitric oxide were observed in the presence of PNS. Another constituent of PNS is notoginsenoside R1, which has been shown in animal studies to modulate certain processes related to the inflammatory response, oxidative stress, and apoptotic activity. 

Another botanical, Rosa canina, or dog rose, contains many health-supportive constituents, which includes quercetin and other flavonoids, pro-anthocyanidins, tannins, phenolic acids, vitamins, and minerals. R. canina has been shown to support a healthy response to inflammation and oxidative stress, and it may support healthy cell division and function. Extracts from R. canina in laboratory studies have been shown to significantly reduce ROS, increase free radical scavenging activity, and protect against certain free radical-induced DNA damage in endothelial cells.

Fisetin, another potential senolytic, is a flavonoid found in certain fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, apples, grapes, onions, and cucumbers. A laboratory study compared the senolytic activity of different flavonoids and showed that fisetin reduced the viability of certain SCs without impacting proliferating cells. It also was shown to influence certain caspase activity, induce apoptosis, and suppress senescence markers in the absence of the evidence of cell death.

Botanicals such as fisetin, PNS, and R. canina may support the body’s response to SCs. Senolytics may support cellular health and a healthy response to inflammation and oxidative stress. Senolytics may also provide support for the prevention of ARDs.

By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT