Cellular lifespan and senescence: a complex balance between multiple cellular pathways

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The study of cellular senescence and proliferative lifespan is becoming increasingly important because of the promises of autologous cell therapy, the need for model systems for tissue disease and the implication of senescent cell phenotypes in organismal disease states such as sarcopenia, diabetes and various cancers, among others. Here, we explain the concepts of proliferative cellular lifespan and cellular senescence, and we present factors that have been shown to mediate cellular lifespan positively or negatively. We review much recent literature and present potential molecular mechanisms by which lifespan mediation occurs, drawing from the fields of telomere biology, metabolism, NAD+ and sirtuin biology, growth factor signaling and oxygen and antioxidants. We conclude that cellular lifespan and senescence are complex concepts that are governed by multiple independent and interdependent pathways, and that greater understanding of these pathways, their interactions and their convergence upon specific cellular phenotypes may lead to viable therapies for tissue regeneration and treatment of age-related pathologies, which are caused by or exacerbated by senescent cells in vivo.

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