Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg , University of Oxford
Professor Yaniv Assaf, Tel Aviv University
As the world population is getting older, age related diseases are increasingly creating a significant challenges for healthcare. To complicate things further, elderly people often suffer from multiple diseases simultaneously. It is believed that ageing and the diseases associated with ageing have common root causes. Therefore, an alternative to treating each disease individually is to tackle the root cause of diseases. One such root cause affecting ageing is cellular senescence.
Senescence is the term referring to a process damaged or old cells undergo. Importantly, scientists have shown that drugs that kill senescent cells are beneficial for many age-related diseases and allow experimental animals to live longer. However, we do not understand why killing senescent cells is beneficial. We believe that senescent cells might communicate with cells that support tissue fitness (called stem cells) and affect their function. This influence might explain why killing senescent cells is beneficial for healthy ageing.
Senescent cells accumulate during ageing, while the function of stem cells starts failing with age. Both events contribute to ageing, but the relationships between the two phenomena are not well understood. In this project, Professor Gill and Professor Krizhanovsky propose to study the link between the two, and particularly to Understand what senescent cells do to stem cells, how they do it and how both cell types talk to each other. They will use cellular systems that will mix stem and senescent cells in mice to look for their relationships in tissues. In addition, , both well-established and novel techniques will be used in order to measure what senescent cells do to stem cells.
The project proposes to understand how the processes of killing senescent cells or improving the function of stem cells, which various studies showed can limit age related diseases, operate and relate. This will enable the researchers to find drugs that can control the processes, and eventually, contribute to the development of new treatments for diseases associated with ageing.
Professor Gil will use cells and Professor Krizhanovsky will use mouse models to look into how senescence and stem cells communicate. Importantly, the information obtained in the different systems in both laboratories will be exchanged so that achievements will be tested in both systems, allowing faster research progress.