We are currently on the topic of cells and what they are doing. Last week we spoke about What are Mitochondria. An important topic that tells us everything about cell function and how we can optimize cell function. This week, we are taking the topic into the other direction and will talk about: “What are Zombie Cells?”.
What are Zombie Cells?
Zombie cells are the opposite of healthy functioning cells that are filled with good working mitochondria. They are cells that are damaged and refuse to die.
Apoptosis and Autophagy
There are usually two ways how old or damaged cells are being taken care of by our bodies. Apoptosis leads a cell through molecular steps to its cell death. Autophagy is the process of your body where it uses old and used parts of a cell and reuses or recycles the ones it can still use. When apoptosis and autophagy no longer work optimally, we accumulate these so-called zombie cells.
Why are Zombie Cells Bad for Us?
You can probably guess that a bodily process that is meant to be working and is not working properly is likely not-so-great news. You guessed right. When damaged cells start to accumulate, which usually happens when we get older, it does a number of things in our bodies. And to be fair, none of them are particularly good.
Zombie cells are a key part of the aging process. When they do not die, they float around our bodies and massively drive inflammation. They also manage to produce more zombie cells in the process of floating around. In young, healthy, people this inflammatory process stimulates an immune response in the body. Unfortunately, this immune response decreases when we age.
The process of not being able to fight inflammation any longer has recently been coined “inflammaging”. Inflammation is one of the main contributors to Western diseases. Think heart disease, depression, Alzheimer, cognitive related diseases, osteoathritis, and diabetes. This list is not exhaustive, but we are coming back to this point time and time again – most Western diseases may look different and formulate themselves differently, but they have the same (or a very similar) root cause.
How Do We Get Zombie Cells?
As I just described above, the cells in our bodies are not longer able to either get our cells to die and/or recycle parts of it properly. Our immune response is also not able to take away the “debris” so-to-speak. What causes this cycle and process to break down inside our bodies though?
We tend to get zombie cells from DNA damage, inflammatory lifestyle toxins in our diet, processed foods, sugar, white flours, and toxins in our environment, and stress.
How Can We Stop Zombie Cells in Our Bodies?
So, how can stop zombie cells from forming in our bodies? How can we reverse these markers of aging, kill zombie cells and potentially stop the progression of aging? It is one of the big questions science is currently asking itself, and a space that I guarantee we will see more of in the coming years.
What we currently do know is that food can work fantastically in relation to this. Phytochemicals have their own set of defense mechanisms that we should definitely take advantage of. Some food-related elements that can support the elimination of zombie cells are:
- Quercetin. This can be found predominantly in apples and onions. Quercetin clears zombie cells and specifically lowers inflammation caused by them
- Fisetin. A compound found in a lot of common fruits and veggies such as strawberries, persimmons, apples, cucumbers, and onions may reduce the zombie cell burden in initial animal studies
- Curcumin. The active compound found in tumeric has been shown to clear certain types of zombie cells
From a lifestyle perspective, both hot (e.g. sauna) and cold therapies can create an anti-inflammatory state, which is hugely supportive against the fight in zombie cells. Exercise can also be hugely beneficial.
There are several drugs that have come out in recent times and that may also further support this process. We will see whether, long-term, this could be a possible route and part of the solution as well.
May a Lack of Zombie Cells be the Key to Longevity?
This is certainly an angle that scientists are currently exploring. It is also the reason why I believe we will see so much more coming out about this in the future. The key here is to not only live longer, but to also have a higher and prolonged quality of life into high age.
We now know that zombie cells can lead to other symptoms we see developing when aging. This can range from a dysfunction in stem cells and mitochondria, as well as changes in metabolism. Zombie cells will continue to be a field of research and possible longevity for a really long time.
I hope you enjoyed this post about zombie cells. Whereas certainly fascinating, there is still a lot more we need to learn and understand. I cannot wait to see where this research takes us and also how it may improve our quality of life, especially in higher age.