Zombie Cells - What They Are and How to Get Rid of Them

What are Zombie Cells?

Zombie cells, or senescent cells, are cells that have been ordered by the body to stop dividing but did not follow the body's order for cell death. This results in a cell that releases proteins that then affect the cells and tissues around it in negative ways. These cells also have a strong connection to the physiological process of aging, muscle weakness, diabetes and osteoporosis. While zombie cells are not always bad, as is the case when they bring immune cells to remove damaged cells, they can also trigger unnecessary chronic inflammation. This harmful inflammatory response is due to senescent mitochondria releasing random fragments of cellular information that confuse the body's natural immune response and cause chronic and unnecessary swelling in these areas. It has also been shown that obesity can increase senescence in cells and reduce the function of cells that renew tired or damaged tissues. The consequences of obesity, namely organ injury and tissue damage, can be linked to the increase of zombie cells as a result of obesity. The biological traffic jam created by senescent cells reduces the body's functioning efficiency, speeds up the aging process and can result in degenerative diseases. 

What happens to cells during fasting?

Fasting can be a very effective tool for us to battle the process of senescence. When we fast, it triggers an increase in the natural stress response in our cells called autophagy. Autophagy is something constantly occurring in our cells that slows down with age, but can be reinvigorated through fasting. During autophagy, dead or damaged organelles are consumed in a vessel called an autophagosome, which clears out the damaged organelle and creates room for new organelles to replace it. This process is especially effective for damaged mitochondria. The autophagy process that clears out mitochondria specifically is called mitophagy. This natural process in our bodies helps to keep our bodies functioning efficiently and maintain youthfulness at a cellular level. 

Best supplement for zombie cells?

While the process of autophagy is a natural warrior against zombie cells, we can also supplement this process to help improve our baseline levels. Supplements that promote autophagy will be the best to help clear out these damaged or dead cells while creating space for our body to replace them with properly functioning cells.

How to identify Senescent cells

Senescent cells are ones that stop dividing and lose their ability to die, which leads to the backup of zombie cells within our bodies. When these cells start to build up, they trigger a chronic inflammatory response that is associated with aging as well as many age-related diseases, including cancer. Despite this, there isn’t one singular identifier that separates senescent cells from healthy cells, which makes it difficult for researchers to isolate and identify these zombie cells. We know that they exist, regardless of whether we can see them, but due to the individual nature of the cells in our body, identifying senescent cells becomes more difficult because their indicators change based on what kind of cell it used to be. In order to get an accurate identification of a senescent cell, multiple biomarkers should be used.

How to remove Senescent cells

There are several different discovered methods to remove senescent cells.

First, the process our body uses to naturally remove them is autophagy. The process is initiated by the stress response to senescent cells, which then leads to their ingestion in an autophagosome and ultimate removal from the body making room for newer, healthier cells. Another option is strengthening the immune system as a whole, a process called immunosurveillance, which will work similarly to increased autophagy by more efficiently identifying and removing these harmful zombie cells. 

A popular pharmaceutical tool to remove senescent cells is the use of senolytics, which are compounds that target the pathways activated in senescent cells. The senolytics kill the zombie cells, then the immune system comes in and removes them from the tissue in order to make room for new cells. Senomorphics, which target the DNA pathways used in senescent cells, have also been shown to be effective at clearing out zombie cells. 

Supplements that can help

The accumulation and buildup of senescent cells is what contributes to the reduced efficiency of our bodies as we age and can lead to diseases like cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, liver and kidney diseases as well as osteoarthritis. However, there are actions that we can take now to help reduce the amount of senescent cells in our body and improve our overall health and life. Supplements that help promote the natural process of autophagy work like a power-boost for the process and help to clear out more of these unnecessary and harmful cells faster than what would normally happen. This means more efficient cellular operation, better immediate health and a better health outlook further down the road as well.


  • Don Moxley - Director of Applied Science

    Don Moxley is the Director of Applied Science at Longevity Labs. Moxley draws upon his career as an athlete, a sports scientist, and an instructor to lead and educate on the science of autophagy and longevity.