On the evolution of cellular senescence

Axel Kowald, João F. Passos, Thomas B.L. Kirkwood

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The idea that senescent cells are causally involved in aging has gained strong support from findings that the removal of such cells alleviates many age-related diseases and extends the life span of mice. While efforts proceed to make therapeutic use of such discoveries, it is important to ask what evolutionary forces might have been behind the emergence of cellular senescence, in order better to understand the biology that we might seek to alter. Cellular senescence is often regarded as an anti-cancer mechanism, since it limits the division potential of cells. However, many studies have shown that senescent cells often also have carcinogenic properties. This is difficult to reconcile with the simple idea of an anti-cancer mechanism. Furthermore, other studies have shown that cellular senescence is involved in wound healing and tissue repair. Here, we bring these findings and ideas together and discuss the possibility that these functions might be the main reason for the evolution of cellular senescence. Furthermore, we discuss the idea that senescent cells might accumulate with age because the immune system had to strike a balance between false negatives (overlooking some senescent cells) and false positives (destroying healthy body cells).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13270
JournalAging Cell
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • aging
  • anti-aging
  • cellular senescence
  • evolution
  • senolytics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cell Biology


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