- By Alaine Westra
Glenn Foundation for Medical Research Awards Mayo Clinic $3 Million to Study Biology of Aging
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Aug. 20, 2013 — Mayo Clinic has been awarded a $3 million grant from the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research to establish the Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for Senescence Research. The grant will support the laboratories' mission of exploring how age-related diseases and disorders are affected by aging cells and how eliminating these senescent cells can improve and extend life span.
Jan van Deursen, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Mayo Clinic and recipient of the Vita Valley Professorship in Cellular Senescence, will serve as laboratory director.
"This grant will allow us to investigate the identity and the properties of senescent cells that accumulate with aging and at sites of age-related pathologies, as well as the potential therapeutic effects of their clearance," Dr. van Deursen says. The Glenn Laboratories at Mayo Clinic will work with the Mayo Clinic Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging, where physicians, researchers and educators work together to improve the lives of the elderly. Advanced age is the main risk factor for most chronic diseases including atherosclerosis, heart failure, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. The elderly are the fastest-growing population in the U.S. and other developed countries.
Dr. van Deursen is researching the drivers of aging and looking for interventions that delay age-related disease and dysfunction. His concept is that aging and age-related diseases are caused at least in part by aging cells that accumulate in tissues and organs. These senescent cells have lost the ability to divide in response to various stimuli that increase the risk of malignant cell transformation, and they affect the functionality of other cells. The critical barrier to determining whether and how cell senescence causes aging and age-related disease has been the lack of a method to selectively remove them.
Over the past four years, Mayo researchers have developed an innovative model to eliminate these cells and delay or slow several age-related pathologies with no overt side effects.
This study opens an entirely new field of research that is expected to lead to the development of drug-based strategies that will clear senescent cells in humans. Once available, these strategies hold the promise of delaying, preventing, or reverting a range of age-related diseases, leading to a longer, healthier, more independent quality of life.
The Glenn Laboratories at Mayo Clinic support the interdisciplinary nature of the work done in aging research at Mayo Clinic with the focus on pioneering basic science programs in cellular senescence and aging, and sharing that insight and experience with researchers.
James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Kogod Center on Aging; Darren Baker, Ph.D., a Brookdale Leadership in Aging Fellow and an Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar; and physiologist Nathan LeBrasseur, Ph.D., will serve as associate directors of the Glenn Laboratories.
About Mayo Clinic
Recognizing 150 years of serving humanity in 2014, Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education for people from all walks of life. For more information, visit 150years.mayoclinic.org, http://www.mayoclinic.org and newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org.