Offering fresh hope for tackling diseases and conditions associated with ageing, researchers have identified 'markers' that could spot old cells in the body.
Accumulation of old cells (called "senescent") in human tissue can contribute to symptoms of ageing.
"What we have found is a series of novel markers - a way to detect senescent cells. What is more, we have shown that they can be used to predict increased survival in certain types of cancer," said Salvador Macip from University of Leicester.
"Our research has described new markers located on the surface of the old cells. This makes these markers particularly useful to quickly identify these cells in laboratory and human samples using a range of techniques," Macip added.
According to the research, the new markers can be used to predict increased survival in certain types of cancer as old cells can also appear as a result of the activation of the internal anti-cancer mechanisms of the human body.
"These markers could be useful tools not only to study senescent cells in the lab but also they could be developed into diagnostics to help predict survival in cancer patients," Macip added.
Until now, good protocols to help spot these cells are lacking.
As a first clinical application of these markers, the researchers observed they were present in high numbers in samples from different types of cancer and this correlated with a better prognosis of the disease. This was particularly evident in breast cancer.
The study was published in the journal Cell Death and Disease.