Cellular senescence is the dynamic process of durable cell-cycle arrest. Senescent cells remain metabolically active and often acquire a distinctive bioactive secretory phenotype. Much of our molecular understanding in senescent cell biology comes from studies using mammalian cell lines exposed to stress or extended culture periods. While less well understood mechanistically, senescence in vivo is becoming appreciated for its numerous biological implications, both in the context of beneficial processes, such as development, tumor suppression, and wound healing, and in detrimental conditions, where senescent cell accumulation has been shown to contribute to aging and age-related diseases. Importantly, clearance of senescent cells, through either genetic or pharmacological means, has been shown to not only extend the healthspan of prematurely and naturally aged mice but also attenuate pathology in mouse models of chronic disease. These observations have prompted an investigation of how and why senescent cells accumulate with aging and have renewed exploration into the characteristics of cellular senescence in vivo. Here, we highlight our molecular understanding of the dynamics that lead to a cellular arrest and how various effectors may explain the consequences of senescence in tissues. Lastly, we discuss how exploitation of strategies to eliminate senescent cells or their effects may have clinical utility.
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