A new class of drugs known as senolytics have been developed that have proved to dramatically slow the ageing process and increase life expectancy.

Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), the Mayo Clinic and other institutions published their findings in the journal Aging Cell on 9 March.

"We view this study as a big, first step toward developing treatments that can be given safely to patients to extend healthspan or to treat age-related diseases and disorders," said Paul Robbins, co-lead author and TSRI professor.

"When senolytic agents, like the combination we identified, are used clinically, the results could be transformative."

When tested on mice, the senolytics drugs were able to improve cardiac function and help with symptoms of frailty.

Two separate compounds - the cancer drug dasatinib and the antihistamine quercetin - were used by the researchers to target senescent cells in order to assist them in dividing, thus slowing the ageing process.

"In animal models, the compound improved cardiovascular function and exercise endurance, reduced osteoporosis and frailty, and extended healthspan," said Laura Miedernhofer, co-lead author of the research. "Remarkably, in some cases, these drugs did so with only a single course treatment."

Before testing can be carried out on humans, more trials on animal models will be needed to better understand the long-term effects of such treatment. However, the researchers are hopeful the senolytics drugs will prove useful in a wide range of illnesses and ailments.

"Senescence is involved in a number of diseases and pathologies so there could be any number of applications for these and similar compounds," said Robbins.

"Also, we anticipate that treatment with senolytic drugs to clear damaged cells would be infrequent, reducing the chance of side effects."