Cellular senescence as a potential mediator of COVID‐19 severity in the elderly

Jamil Nehme, Michela Borghesan, Sebastian Mackedenski, Thomas G. Bird, Marco Demaria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

SARS-CoV-2 is a novel betacoronavirus which infects the lower respiratory tract and can cause coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a complex respiratory distress syn-drome. Epidemiological data show that COVID-19 has a rising mortality particularly in individuals with advanced age. Identifying a functional association between SARS-CoV-2 infection and the process of biological aging may provide a tractable avenue for therapy to prevent acute and long-term disease. Here, we discuss how cellular senes-cence—a state of stable growth arrest characterized by pro-inflammatory and pro-dis-ease functions—can hypothetically be a contributor to COVID-19 pathogenesis, and a potential pharmaceutical target to alleviate disease severity. First, we define why older COVID-19 patients are more likely to accumulate high levels of cellular senescence. Second, we describe how senescent cells can contribute to an uncontrolled SARS-CoV-2-mediated cytokine storm and an excessive inflammatory reaction during the early phase of the disease. Third, we discuss the various mechanisms by which senes-cent cells promote tissue damage leading to lung failure and multi-tissue dysfunctions. Fourth, we argue that a high senescence burst might negatively impact on vaccine ef-ficacy. Measuring the burst of cellular senescence could hypothetically serve as a pre-dictor of COVID-19 severity, and targeting senescence-associated mechanisms prior and after SARS-CoV-2 infection might have the potential to limit a number of severe damages and to improve the efficacy of vaccinations.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13237
Number of pages14
JournalAging Cell
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2020


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