U of M researchers awarded grant to map senescent cells in preclinical studies and human tissues

Researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and the Institute on the Biology of Aging and Metabolism have received a total of $19.3 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health Common Fund to map cells strains in preclinical studies and human tissues as part of the SenNet Consortium. These multidisciplinary grants involve nearly 60 researchers from the U of M Medical School, Northwestern University, and Mayo Clinic.

Senescent cells play a causal role in aging and many age-related diseases, but they can also contribute to beneficial biology like wound healing. The collective goal of SenNet is to develop a 4D atlas of human senescent cells. U of M and the Mayo Clinic are at the forefront of developing senolytic drugs that selectively kill senescent cells. The SenNet project will significantly advance knowledge on how best to use senolytics to improve human health.

Faculty of Medicine professor David Bernlohr, PhD, will lead the newest project to establish a tissue mapping center and map the process of senescence during a normal aging process in preclinical studies. The project received a four-year grant worth $10.8 million. U of M researchers will focus on senescent cells in fat, liver and brain tissue.

“This project is going to provide us with a lot of fundamental information that will enable other types of investigations that will have direct impacts on the people of Minnesota,” Dr. Bernlohr said. “This paves the way for future projects that we believe will be more translational.”

A five-year, $8.5 million follow-on grant will take a similar approach to proving that cells with particular characteristics are senescent in human tissue. Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, director of the Institute on the Biology of Aging and Metabolism and professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics at U of M Medical School, will lead this project.

“This is an incredibly exciting opportunity and a massive investment by the NIH to understand the biology of senescent cells,” said Dr. Niedernhofer. “We will get huge amounts of information in parallel with Dr. Bernlohr’s research team.”

Researchers are currently building the tools and workflows to find and characterize senescent cells as these projects are underway.


University of Minnesota School of Medicine

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