Mayo gets $3 million to study cells tied to aging

The Mayo Clinic has received $3 million from the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research to study how the presence of a specific sort of human cell affects aging.

The funds will help the clinic establish laboratories to study senescent cells, which seem to accumulate in our bodies with age.

Darren Baker, a cellular biologist working on the project, said the labs will conduct research based on discoveries about senescent cells that he and other colleagues published two years ago in the journal Nature.

“What happens is when they’re resident in a tissue, at least the hypothesis has been, that they start to do negative things to the surrounding cells and the tissue,” Baker said. “They can have far-reaching negative impacts and theoretically potentially drive age-related diseases.”

Baker said much of the early work at the lab will be testing the hypothesis that senescent cells can lead to diabetes, hearing or other medical issues associated with old age.

“The first facet I think is going to be primarily devoted to really clearly demonstrating that age-related pathologies that are associated with senescent cells actually are driven by those cells themselves,” Baker said.

Mayo hopes the research, along with related studies at the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging, could lead to drug-based treatments that could remove senescent cells and their effects from patients’ bodies.

“The thought is that if you can have some sort of interventional strategies that are going to be impacting a number of age-related diseases on the whole, you would then start to see huge ramifications in terms of at least extending healthy life spans for people,” Baker said.

The Glenn Foundation has committed to funding the labs for five years, according to the Mayo Clinic. The award puts the Mayo Clinic in the company of prestigious organizations like Harvard Medical School that have also received money from the foundation.