A versatile drug delivery system targeting senescent cells.
Senescent cells accumulate in multiple aging-associated diseases, and eliminating these cells has recently emerged as a promising therapeutic approach. Here, we take advantage of the high lysosomal β-galactosidase activity of senescent cells to design a drug delivery system based on the encapsulation of drugs with galacto-oligosaccharides. We show that gal-encapsulated fluorophores are preferentially released within senescent cells in mice. In a model of chemotherapy-induced senescence, gal-encapsulated cytotoxic drugs target senescent tumor cells and improve tumor xenograft regression in combination with palbociclib. Moreover, in a model of pulmonary fibrosis in mice, gal-encapsulated cytotoxics target senescent cells, reducing collagen deposition and restoring pulmonary function. Finally, gal-encapsulation reduces the toxic side effects of the cytotoxic drugs. Drug delivery into senescent cells opens new diagnostic and therapeutic applications for senescence-associated disorders.