Scientists may have found a way to stave off some effects of aging simply by removing human cells that stop dividing as we get older.

Young cells continuously split to keep body tissues and organs functioning properly, but they eventually stop dividing — a state called senescence — and are replaced by other cells. And while senescence occurs throughout life, the body’s ability to clear the cells lessens with age and leads to a buildup.

Now, new research from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota suggests that using a drug to target and kill senescent cells can essentially stall or even freeze some aspects of aging such as cataracts, dementia, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and wrinkle-inducing fat loss.

However, because senescence is believed to have developed as a defense against cancer, in which cells divide uncontrollably, stopping the process altogether could be dangerous.

But Jan van Deursen, senior author of the paper and a professor in the departments of biochemistry and pediatric and adolescent medicine at Mayo, said, “If you could clear senescent cells, you perhaps could treat age-related diseases as a group rather than individually.”

[The Wall Street Journal]