Uncovering the Mysteries of Human Aging to Prevent and Cure Disease

What happens to our cells as we age? Can we reverse aging at the cellular level to delay or prevent age-related diseases, improving human health and longevity?

For Dr. Bianca Migliori, who is fascinated with leveraging technology to speed the discovery of cures for rare and major diseases, these are the questions that keep her up at night.

She and her research team at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute (NYSCF) are searching for answers, powered by the world’s only fully automated robotic infrastructure integrated with artificial intelligence. This NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array® standardizes the way stem cells are grown in the lab, making biological research highly reproducible and scalable. It allows scientists to perform complex stem cell research such as “clinical trials in a dish” that test new therapies directly on human cells, so as to enable more effective, safer, and less expensive drugs that can better treat patient populations by factoring in genetic differences.

“This is the perfect playground for a data scientist who wants to identify new cellular signatures of disease and detect the subtle changes cells undergo after being exposed to drugs,” says Dr. Migliori, who is the Foundation’s senior staff data scientist. “Given this enormous potential and capability, we decided to dedicate our work to the most widespread condition of all: aging.” Through NYSCF’s cell repository created by the Array®, she has access to cells from donors across all ages.

Dr. Migliori’s project, Automated Cell Profiling Platform for Anti-Aging Drug Discovery, won the National Academy of Medicine (NAM)’s Healthy Longevity Catalyst Award for its innovative approach to testing and discovering new therapies for aging-related diseases.

Image courtesy of:
New York Stem Cell Foundation, Inc.

NAM is Seeking Applicants for its 2022 U.S.-Based Healthy Longevity Catalyst Awards!
Applications will be accepted from January 17, 2022, through February 28, 2022 at 11:59 pm EST. Applicants from all fields, backgrounds, industries, and specialties are encouraged to complete the unique and simple 2-page application to earn $50,000 USD in seed funding for their innovative projects.

By uncovering the biological pathways responsible for aging and keeping cells healthy for longer, she and her team hope to find ways to treat, prevent, or delay the incidence of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, and other major age-related illnesses. Their hypothesis is that aging has a subtle and complex impact on the appearance of skin stem cells. If the researchers can identify age-dependent “fingerprints,” they may be able to find drugs that revert them.

“We aim to test various drugs on these cells to identify those with the potential to reverse the signatures of aging we have identified, which could point toward ways to intervene in the age-related processes that lead to numerous diseases,” Dr. Migliori says. “Ultimately, we are doing this to help prevent the health of cells from deteriorating as they age, and to reduce their vulnerability to age-related diseases.”

The NAM Health Longevity Catalyst Award has provided Dr. Migliori and her team with key resources needed to carry out a proof-of-concept study that is laying the groundwork for identifying anti-aging drugs and for a better understanding of the aging process. It can be difficult, she notes, to acquire such funding through traditional funding mechanisms.

She sees great opportunities in the health longevity research field. “The Award is also connecting us to a fantastic, innovative community of aging experts, which helps spark collaboration and new ideas and advance our research more effectively,” Dr. Migliori adds.

“Aging is the major risk factor for the most prominent diseases in industrialized countries, with an increasing impact on public health due to the aging population,” Dr. Migliori notes. “There is so much complexity to uncover and so many different approaches that the field could benefit from. I believe there’s plenty of room for improvement and so much to gain from aging discoveries, so I would definitely encourage experts from all areas, especially those with new technologies, to get involved.

Bianca Migliori & Daniel Paull

Researchers with project proposals can apply here in January 2022 when the Catalyst Award Application opens. To read about other Catalyst Awardees click here.

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