Zombie Cells: Senescent Cells, Autophagy and The Effects On Longevity | Boulder Longevity Institute

Did you know that there are actually zombies in real life!?

Not that long ago, back in 2019, some scientists from British Columbia made a very eerie discovery in the Ecuadorian Amazon. They found that there was a new species of wasps that could actually manipulate spiders and turn them into zombies.


Basically, this type of spider is usually very social. They remain in groups and rarely ever stray away from their colonies. However, the researchers noticed that some of these spiders when infected with this wasp larva began to exhibit very strange behaviors. They would leave their colonies, go off on their own and spin odd cocoon-like webs in remote locations that look nothing like their traditional webs. In these webs, they discovered wasp larva growing inside. What they discovered is that this wasp would lay eggs on the abdomen of the spider. As the egg hatches and the wasp larva emerged, it actually would feed on the spider, turning it into a zombie and taking control of its body. The Zombie Spider in its altered state would leave its group, spin this nest for the larva to grow into adult wasps, and then, as soon as that was done, the wasp would completely destroy their hosts and take over!

Sounds horrible doesn’t it?!?


But the same zombie attack is actually occurring inside your body! Many of you who have been following BLI for some time have heard us talk at length about what causes aging and have heard us use the term zombie cells. Zombie cells are what we actually call senescent cells or, put simply, old cells. Senescent cells start out as normal, healthy cells, but then they encounter stress, things like infections, or free radicals that damage the DNA. At some point, the cell becomes damaged enough that it knows it should die by committing suicide, a process called autophagy. But instead, the cell can get “stuck” and linger on in a state of suspended animation. At this point, the cell becomes a zombie cell. The problem is that the zombie cells then release chemicals called senescence associated secretory phenotype or SASPs. SASPs begin to damage the healthy cells around them turning them into senescent cells – just like a zombie. 

This is what ultimately leads to many of the age-related diseases that destroy us! Put simply, our cells get overtaken by the zombies! And just like the poor zombie spider, eventually, the zombie cells lead to the destruction of our entire well-being, slowly killing us through the process of aging. 

Our goal in age-related medicine needs to be focused on getting rid of the zombies by reestablishing normal autophagy and taking back control of our health. There are many ways to promote autophagy, or cellular clean-up, in the body. Some of our favorite methods include intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating. Putting your body into a stressed, fasted state cues your cells to practice autophagy. Another way to induce autophagy is through taking supplements, like polyamine spermidine, and by exercising, especially high-intensity interval training (HIIT). 

To learn more about autophagy and its importance to overall longevity, visit our BLI Human Optimization Academy at www.bli.academy and simply search autophagy in the search bar.

Visit the Human Optimization Academy - BLI's Educational Arm


Published March 24, 2022

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