healthMental Health

Zombie Cells Really Do Want to Eat Your Brain


When George Romero released NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD over 50 years ago, nobody realized his slow-shuffling, brain-eating zombies would remain so popular over fifty years later.

Unfortunately, as we age, our brains produce “zombie” cells – and new research shows they play a role in causing general cognitive impairment and specific neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.


Just Like Movie Ones, Cellular “Zombies” Refuse to Die and Decompose

Our cells go through a life cycle much as we do. They start out young, grow older and less healthy and . . . are supposed to die.

Your body monitors this process. If necessary, it tells your elderly cells: Die. It’s called apoptosis.

These cells are ordered to turn themselves into the recycling vat so their proteins, minerals and other significant biochemical components can be reused.

Cells that refuse to follow orders to commit hari-kari – senescent cells – are a significant driver of chronic inflammation within your body. It’s so bad, this cellular senescence is now seen by researchers as an important driver of aging.


In other words: stubborn cells that refuse to die for you are a major cause of your own aging and chronic disease risk.


Risk Factors for Cellular Senescence

* DNA damage

* Telomere shortening

* Inflammation

* Metabolic dysfunction

* Mitochondrial dysfunction

* Oncogene (related to cancer) activation


Cellular Senescence Pathways

1. Stress-induced

2. Mitochondrial dysfunction

3. Replicative 

4. Oxidative stress-induced


Senescent Cells Release Toxic Compounds

Zombie cells might not be so bad if they simply lay in their coffins and did nothing.

Instead, they release biochemicals that damage and irritate nearby tissue, thereby triggering inflammation. Because these zombie cells never stop outraging their neighbors, the inflammation remains chronic – damaging your health.

We’ve long known senescent cells injure your tissues and organs. We’ve recently found your brain is no exception.

Traditionally, we’ve learned, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and brain aging are caused by three factors: oxidative stress, inflammation and abnormal protein deposits in your brain.

Now we can add a fourth risk factor: cellular senescence.


Your Brain on Senescent Cells

As your brain ages, and cells shut down yet remain active enough to overtrigger your immune system, your brain loses its ability to function.

The beta-amyloid plaques – abnormal deposits of protein – so closely associated with Alzheimer’s Disease can cause normal cells to shift into senescence.

With your brain cells less able to function effectively, you are far from your best. 


The main kind of cell in your brain is the neuron. Neurons’re wired together into the synaptic circuits you use to think.

Your brain also requires other kinds of cells, such as astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and microglia. They maintain the brain’s synaptic structure, bolstering your brain’s immune system to generate the myelin sheath that insulates your nerve cells.


Recent findings suggest cellular senesence may play an “essential role” in the processes of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

As cellular senescence continues to build up in your brain, your ability to think, remember and process information declines.

Senolytics Show Tremendous Potential for Slowing Aging – and Keeping Your Brain Sharp

As we’ve come to understand how much cellular senescence contributes to the aging process, our hopes of finding an effective way of neutralizing zombie cells go up.

The trick is finding a substance which can eliminate senescent cells without damaging the normal, healthy cells surrounding the zombies.


Study Results

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine teamed up with the National Institute on Aging to study the effects of two senolytics on Alzheimer’s disease in mice.

The mice had amyloid plaques in their brains, similar to people with Alzheimer’s. Mouse brain cells close to the amyloid plaques showed signs of cellular senescence – and the mice displayed signs of cognitive impairment.

The researchers treated the mice with the two currently most popular senolytics: the cancer medicine dasatinib and quercetin.

As a medicine designed to treat cancer, dasatinib comes with harmful side effects. Therefore, it must be paired with a polyphenol such as quercetin, or others, to reduce dasatinib’s damage.


As the result, the mice had:

* Fewer senescent cells

* Lower amounts of brain inflammation

* Increased cognitive function

* Less amyloid plaque

Currently, scientists are running human trials to test the combination of dasatinib and quercetin.


The Senolytics at Your Supermarket

1. Dasatinib is a cancer medicine, so it’s not available unless you need it to treat cancer. However, the way dasatinib neutralizes senolytics is by blocking ephrin receptors, one way of targeting senescent cells.

Another substance known for blocking ephrin receptors is theaflavins, the polyphenols in black tea. 


2. Quercetin

This polyphenol comes in many plants, including apples and onions.


3. Apigenin

You can find this polyphenol is many plants, especially chamomile flowers, but including oregano, parsley, celery and artichokes.

Apigenin reduces how much of the inflammation-causing toxic compounds senescent cells emit.


4. Fisetin

It’s another polyphenol found in many plant foods, including apples, mangoes, persimmons, strawberries, grapes and kiwi fruit.

It’s the most powerful of these plant-derived compounds. In animal studies, it’s demonstrated neuroprotective effectiveness against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Fisetin works because when it tells zombie cells to kill themselves, they actually do so.

Studies have shown it lengthens both health and life spans in animals and, though it still needs more research, human subjects.



All the plant-derived senolytics are of course available as supplements. 

Should you take one?

If you’re now healthy, probably not. Zombie cells don’t age you overnight. They and their adverse health effects accumulate over years. 

The studies show senolytics work quickly. In two weeks, you’ll probably have gotten rid of the major problem areas.

Make these plant polyphenols a regular part of your diet and, it appears, they’ll help prevent accumulation of zombie cells.