Aditi Gurkar, Ph.D. | Aging Institute, University of Pittsburgh; Rama Balasubramanian, Ph.D.
Competition Sponsor: U.S. National Academy of Medicine
Awardee Year: 2022
To date, a unified molecular fingerprint for senescence is unknown. Importantly, senescent cells also display distinct morphological features, including enlarged cell size, increased mitochondrial and lysosomal (organelle) mass, and accumulation of intracellular iron. However, these features are not easily captured in living organisms with existing technology. Disentangling senescent cells from neighboring cells, necessitates an innovative ‘tool’ that can capture and integrate granular features of senescent cells. Furthermore, although genetic and pharmacological elimination of senescent cells has recently shown promise in preclinical settings for age-related pathologies, the field is challenged by the lack of a ‘tool’ to assess the efficacy of senotherapeutics. In this NAM Longevity Catalyst Grant we will develop a nanoscale tool that can identify senescent cells based on subtle changes in size, shape, volume etc., through mapping of the magnetic field. Magnetic nanoparticles (MNP) have been widely used in nanomedicine including for diagnostics, drug delivery, magnetic imaging, magnetic separation, etc., because of their low toxicity and good biodegradability. Magnetic fields interact weakly with biological matter and penetrate well into tissues, which makes MNP based tools ideal for detecting senescent cells in vivo. This unique and innovative approach serves as a ‘one-stop-shop platform’ for detecting senescence.