Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Researchers have identified a natural product found in fruits and vegetables -- fisetin -- can help slow aging, according to a study of mice.
The scientists built on research that showed it was possible to reduce the burden of damaged cells, called termed senescent cells, and extend lifespan and improve health. In their findings, published last week in EBioMedcine, they said fisetin can reduce the number of damaged cells in the body.
Fisetin is found in strawberries, apples, persimmons, onions and cucumbers. Supplements also contain concentrated fisetin. Preclinical studies suggest that fisetin might increase cognitive performance and protect against Alzheimer's disease as well as protect against stroke, but no human research has been conducted, according to the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation.
When consumed in the diet it is safe, but possible carcinogenic effects have been identified in animal studies, the foundation said.
The researchers found the antioxidant was the most potent of 10 flavonoids they tested.
"These results suggest that we can extend the period of health, termed healthspan, even towards the end of life," Dr. Paul D. Robbins, a member of the University of Minnesota Medical School faculty, said in a press release. "But there are still many questions to address, including the right dosage, for example."
When people age, they accumulate damaged cells that eventually go through an aging process of their own, called cellular senescence.
They also release inflammatory factors that tell the immune system to clear those damaged cells.
They don't clear as effectively in older people as younger ones. So they accumulate, cause low level inflammation and release enzymes that can degrade the tissue.
Until now, researchers hadn't figured out the right drugs that can act on this in an aging body. In addition, they didn't know if the treatment was actually attacking the particular cells that are senescent.
For the first time, researchers used mass cytometry, or CyTOF, technology. This technology is only being used at the University of Minnesota.
"In addition to showing that the drug works, this is the first demonstration that shows the effects of the drug on specific subsets of these damaged cells within a given tissue," Robbins said.