New research proposes how to use ICSA consensus as a guideline for senescence biomarkers.
Since their discovery 60 years ago, significant progress has been made in understanding the characteristics and functions of senescent cells, but this progress has been limited by the absence of specific biomarkers. A new research paper explores a consensus from the International Cell Senescence Association, which defines and discusses key cellular and molecular features of senescence, and provides recommendations on how to use them as biomarkers. 
Apart from the deterioration in physical appearance that comes with growing older, our organism’s physiological functions deteriorate as well. Thus, aging is a major risk factor for various diseases and conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders. 
Cellular senescence is a natural and irreversible process resulting from cells having the potential to multiply for only a limited number of times (also known as Hayflick limit). Senescent cells are old cells that can no longer divide. Even though the limited potential for division acts as a brake on old damaged cells from becoming cancerous, over time, senescent cells can cause damage to other cells and trigger aging and age-related illnesses .
Since the strong links between cellular senescence and organismal aging have become apparent, targeting senescence has emerged as an attractive intervention for the management of aging and age-related disorders, thus promoting Longevity. Such approaches fall under the umbrella of senotherapy. This has rendered the need for senescence biomarkers identification essential, without which the precise detection of senescent cells and the assessment of senotherapy efficacy would not be possible. This is where the ICSA came into play.
Researchers from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens have recently described a consensus from the ICSA, which provides a beacon of cellular and molecular characteristics of senescence and recommends how these can be used as biomarkers. More specifically, they described several key “molecular flags” of senescent cells, ranging from molecules involved in cell cycle arrest, different types of DNA damage, metabolism, cell death, and regulation of gene expression, as well as secreted molecules involved in communication between cells, collectively termed as senescent associated secretory phenotype (SASP) components.
Researchers from the same group have also recently developed SeneQuest, a freely available powerful resource tool that can be used for the identification of genes that are linked with senescence. Additionally, they have developed an algorithm that very precisely detects and quantifies senescence, both in cells in the lab but most importantly in living organisms.
Even though such efforts of understanding the characteristics and functions of senescent cells and identifying senescence biomarkers bring us one step closer to fighting aging, there are open questions to be addressed and limitations to be overcome. How specific, robust, and accurate are these biomarkers in detecting senescence? How high is their prognostic and predictive therapeutic value for senotherapy interventions that are already being investigated in clinical trials? How do we cope with the high heterogeneity of senescence-associated features? How feasible is it to detect senescent cells in tissues and organs?
One thing is for sure; the evolving field of senotherapy is evolving rapidly, and we at Longevity.Technology are excited to see the implications of the identification of senescence biomarkers in pushing the field forward.