Researchers have identified a marker for a small population of smooth muscle cells in blood vessel walls that show up in larger numbers in cases of vascular disease, such as atherosclerosis. These cells may be dysfunctional in the sense that they (a) appear to be involved in inflammatory signaling and (b) lose the normal behavior of smooth muscle tissue. My first thought on reading the abstract of the paper was that this may be a senescent population, as inflammation and disruption of tissue function are quite characteristic of the bad behavior of senescent cells. On closer reading that sounds less likely, however. These may well be cells that are engaged in repair and regrowth activities, which also tend to involve at least short term inflammation alongside significant changes in cell activities.
Are these cells harmful, or are they responding in a beneficial way? That may depend on context; it might be the case that they are initially beneficial, but in the later stages of disease progression they become a problem, and contribute to the disease state. The discovery of a marker allows technologies such as the Oisin Biotechnologies suicide gene therapy platform to target these