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Cell ageing: a flourishing field for neurodegenerative diseases

1 Neuron Glia Biology in Health and Disease Group, Research Institute for Medicines (iMed.ULisboa), Faculty of Pharmacy, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal;
2 Department of Biochemistry and Human Biology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal

Special Issues: Molecular Mechanisms of Neurodegenerative Diseases

Cellular senescence is viewed as an irreversible cell-cycle arrest mechanism involving a complexity of biological progressive processes and the acquisition of diverse cellular phenotypes. Several cell-intrinsic and extrinsic causes (stresses) may lead to diverse cellular signaling cascades that include oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, DNA damage, excessive accumulation of misfolded proteins, impaired microRNA processing and inflammation. Here we review recent advances in the causes and consequences of brain cell ageing, including the senescence of endothelial cells at the central nervous system barriers, as well as of neurons and glial cells. We address what makes ageing an important risk factor for neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and cerebrovascular disease. In particular, we highlight the importance of defects in mitochondrial dynamics, in the cathepsin activity imbalance, in cell-cell communication, in the accumulation of misfolded and unfolded proteins and in the microRNA profiling as having potential impact on cellular ageing processes. Another important aspect is that the absence of specific senescence biomarkers has hampered the characterization of senescent cells in ageing and age-associated diseases. In accordance, the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) or secretome was shown to vary in distinct cell types and upon different stressors, and SASP heterogeneity is believed to create subsets of senenescent cells. In addition to secreted proteins, we then place extracellular vesicles (exosomes and ectosomes) as important mediators of intercellular communication with pathophysiological roles in disease spreading, and as emerging targets for therapeutic intervention. We also discuss the application of engineered extracellular vesicles as vehicles for drug delivery. Finally, we summarize current knowledge on methods to rejuvenate senescent cells and we review cell replacement therapeutic strategies. A deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the senescence of cells may open novel therapeutic approaches for age-related pathologies and for extending healthy human life span.
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