A senescent cell.

Zombie Cells: Why Are They So Dangerous?

Have you heard about zombie cells? If so, you have certainly noticed that they are associated with aging and various age-related conditions. In this guide, we will explain how they accumulate in the body and how to minimize their impact on our wellbeing. For the very beginning, let’s define zombie cells.

What Are Zombie Cells?

Zombie cells, or senescent cells, are cells that have stopped dividing and are no longer functioning properly. These cells can accumulate in the body as we age. Normally, old or damaged cells go through a process called apoptosis (programmed cell death), which allows the body to remove them. However, senescent cells resist this process and remain in the body.

One of the reasons is the increase in cytochrome c, a protein that affects cell death and can disrupt the mitochondria. This disruption can lead to the release of pro-inflammatory molecules, which contribute to chronic inflammation and age-related diseases. Senescent cells impair tissue function and are associated with various age-related conditions, including arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders. There are numerous therapies targeting zombie cells that are being researched as a potential way to improve health and longevity.

The Link Between Zombie Cells and Aging

Zombie cells arise from various stimuli, such as oxidative stress, DNA damage, or telomere shortening, which can activate a response known as cellular senescence. This response halts the cell cycle and prevents further division, leading to the accumulation of senescent cells in tissues.

Senescent cells secrete a variety of factors, including pro-inflammatory cytokines, growth factors, and matrix metalloproteinases, collectively known as the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP). SASP can promote chronic inflammation, disrupt tissue structure and function, and contribute to the development of age-related diseases.

Additionally, these cells can evade immune surveillance, which allows them to persist in tissues. The accumulation of zombie cells can lead to tissue dysfunction and is implicated in the aging process and the development of age-related diseases.

Biomarkers of Cells Senescence

Zombie cells have certain characteristics that differentiate them from normal cells. They include the following:

  • Cell morphology: Senescent cells often exhibit distinct changes in their morphology, such as enlarged and flattened shapes, which can be observed under a microscope. These alterations reflect structural changes associated with cellular senescence.
  • Lamin B1 expression: Lamin B1 is a protein that helps maintain the shape of the cell nucleus. Zombie cells typically show reduced expression of lamin B1, which leads to changes in their nuclear morphology. This reduction in lamin B1 expression can serve as a biomarker for cellular senescence.
  • Senescence-associated beta-galactosidase (SA-β-Gal): SA-β-Gal is an enzyme commonly upregulated in senescent cells. Detection of SA-β-Gal activity is a widely used method to identify senescent cells in vitro and in tissues.

These indicators help researchers identify senescent cells and provide useful information for developing therapies to target these cells in age-related diseases.

The Risks of Zombie Cells in the Body

Accumulated zombie cells can cause several health issues. One significant risk lies in their tendency to promote chronic inflammation. Senescent cells release proinflammatory molecules, which contribute to chronic inflammation. Various diseases stem from this chronic inflammation, including arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The accumulation of these cells is a hallmark of aging, and their presence is associated with age-related functional decline and tissue damage. By secreting factors that stimulate tumor growth and spread, zombie cells can also promote cancer development and progression. Still, their function in cancer development and prevention is quite complex.

How to Get Rid of Zombie Cells Naturally?

Getting rid of zombie cells can be achieved through various lifestyle and dietary changes, such as:

  • Fasting: Fasting (or calorie restriction) triggers autophagy, a process by which cells break down and recycle damaged components, including senescent cells. This can help reduce the accumulation of zombie cells in the body.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise reduces the number of these cells in tissues. Exercise stimulates the production of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules, which help combat the negative effects of their accumulation.
  • Healthy diet: Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds can reduce the number of senescent cells in the body.
  • Senolytic supplements: Certain bioactive molecules, such as fisetin, quercetin, dasatinib, and navitoclax, have been identified as senolytics. These compounds selectively induce cell death (apoptosis) in zombie cells and provide additional health benefits. 


Frequently Asked Questions


Are there any benefits of zombie cells in the body?

Yes, there are potential benefits to having zombie cells in the body. While they are generally associated with negative effects such as inflammation and tissue dysfunction, they also contribute to certain physiological processes. Some potential benefits include:

  1. Wound healing: Zombie cells can promote wound healing by secreting factors that recruit immune cells and stimulate the formation of new blood vessels.
  2. Embryonic development: These cells are involved in embryonic development, where they help shape tissues and organs.
  3. Tissue repair: In some cases, senescent cells can contribute to tissue repair and regeneration by promoting the removal of damaged cells and stimulating the growth of new cells.

While these benefits exist, it’s important to note that the accumulation of senescent cells over time can outweigh these advantages and contribute to age-related diseases. Therapeutic strategies aimed at selectively targeting harmful senescent cells while preserving beneficial functions are being actively explored.


Does metformin get rid of zombie cells?

Metformin is the most commonly prescribed drug for type 2 diabetes. It has been indicated to have potential anti-aging effects, including the ability to target senescent cells. While metformin’s exact mechanisms of action are not fully understood, studies have shown that it can modulate various cellular pathways involved in aging and age-related diseases.

This medication activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a key cellular energy sensor, which can inhibit the mTOR pathway and promote autophagy in senescent cells. It has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve mitochondrial function, which are both implicated in the aging process and the accumulation of zombie cells.

While some studies suggest that metformin may have beneficial effects on senescent cells and aging, a full understanding of its mechanisms and benefits in this context requires more clinical evidence.


Does quercetin remove senescent cells?

Quercetin, a flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables, has shown promise as a senolytic agent. Quercetin works by interfering with pathways that help senescent cells survive, such as the BCL-2 family of proteins. By inhibiting these survival pathways, quercetin can induce apoptosis in them.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that quercetin can reduce the number of zombie cells in aging tissues and improve lifespan. Here you can read more about quercetin benefits.


What is the most effective senolytic?

Among the senolytic compounds studied, fisetin and quercetin have shown the strongest senolytic effects. In addition to their senolytic effects, both fisetin and quercetin have other remarkable health benefits. They both possess potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help combat oxidative stress and inflammation, the major contributors to aging and age-related diseases.