Home Biological science New Potocsnak Longevity Institute Aims To Extend Human “Health”

New Potocsnak Longevity Institute Aims To Extend Human “Health”

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New Longevity Institute hopes to lengthen human “health”

Video Credit: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

“We want to make it possible to live longer in good health”

In the not-so-distant future, you may be able to check into the Human Longevity Lab to find out how old you really are, physiologically speaking.

If the news is less than optimal, clinicians will figure out why and check on a litany of body systems as well as your neurological and orthopedic health. Then you will be prescribed an intervention to prevent further decline or, better yet, to restore your vitality.

Douglas Vaughan, MD, Irving S. Cutter President and Professor of Medicine, and Director of the new Potocsnak Longevity Institute.

It sounds like science fiction, but that’s actually the mission of the new Potocsnak Longevity Institute, which launched today at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The Human Longevity Laboratory is just one part of the ambitious multi-center institute, whose goal is to foster new discoveries and build on Northwestern’s ongoing research in the rapidly advancing science of aging.

The biological processes that lead to aging can be malleable. “We believe we can slow this process, delay it, or even reverse it in theory. The curtain is being lifted on what leads to aging. We want to contribute to this larger process of discovery.”

Douglas Vaughan, MD, Director of New Institute and Chair of Medicine, Northwestern University

The institute’s goal, funded by a very generous donation from Chicago industrialist John Potocsnak and his family, is to expand what Vaughan calls human “health”. Scientists and clinicians will approach the period of life when people are most at risk from the comorbidities of aging – arthritis, dementia, heart disease, diabetes, cancer in aging, hypertension and frailty.

“We want to make it possible to live healthy longer, not just to live longer,” said Vaughan, also Irving S. Cutter professor of medicine. “Aging is the most important risk factor for every disease we manage in adult medicine. If we can postpone this process, we can postpone the onset of disease. “

The new institute builds on decades of work by Vaughan and scientists in the Northwest, unifying programs studying populations who appear resistant to some of the negative consequences of aging. These include some members of an Amish community in Bern, Indiana or a group of young octogenarians cognitively called “SuperAgers”. Other projects will continue to research biological levers that stimulate aging and explore approaches – including new drugs – to minimize the impact of aging and extend the healthy lifespan of older people.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to support the vision presented by the leaders, scientists and physicians at Northwestern to help people live the longest and healthiest lives possible,” said Potocsnak. “The promise of the incredible work done by Doug, Frank and many others has the potential to have a profound impact on the quality of life of millions of people. My wife Laura, myself and my family are proud to support this important work as we strive to make the world a better place than when we first came here. “

“The Potocsnak Longevity Institute is a major step forward for the science of aging and lifespan,” said Eric G. Neilson, MD, vice president of medical affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean. “The potential impact of the progress of this institute cannot be overstated; now is the time to move the field forward. “

Presentation of the institute:

Human Longevity Laboratory

“Our tasks, challenges and opportunities at the institute and at the Human Longevity Laboratory are manifold,” said Frank Palella, MD, associate director of the institute and Potacsnak Family CSC professor at Northwestern. “We plan to determine the factors and conditions that determine not only the lifespan of people, but also their standard of living. We will design therapeutic and interventional clinical trials to study important aspects of aging in order to identify ways to extend lifespan and delay or prevent harmful aging processes.

“Our goal is, ultimately, to extend the period in which individuals can enjoy optimal physical and cognitive functioning, independence and a full life. The possibilities are staggering.”

What HIV tells us about aging

The science behind HIV and aging will be the cornerstone of the institute’s research at the Potocsnak Center for Premature Aging and HIV, led by Palella.

While the lifespan of people living with HIV has been extended with strong antiviral therapy, these people experience accelerated aging with heart disease, cancer, dementia, frailty and other illnesses. They also die sooner than people without HIV. One of the main reasons is chronic inflammation and a constantly activated immune system.

“HIV is becoming a good model for exploring the determinants and interventions of aging processes,” said Palella. “There is a cross-pollination here between the study of what improves and prolongs the lifespan of people living with HIV and the general population.”

“People who treat HIV and those who subspecializes in geriatrics, cardiology, neurology and other health care disciplines will join forces at the center to discuss approaches that will benefit people with various aging syndromes and people living with HIV. Said Palella.

How Some Amish Who Live Longer Could Help Us Live Longer Too

A few years ago, Vaughan discovered that an extended family of Old Order Amish in Indiana has a genetic variant that protects them against multiple aspects of biological aging. Amish people with this mutation have much less diabetes and a younger vascular age than those without the mutation. These individuals turn out to have very low levels of PAI-1 (plasminogen activator inhibitor), a protein that is part of a “molecular fingerprint” associated with aging or senescence (death) of cells. .

“We’re collecting data from this natural experiment, and Mother Nature is going to tell us how a drug that blocks PAI-1 could prevent or block aging in an average human being,” Vaughan said.

Northwestern helped develop an investigational drug with a Japanese company that blocks PAI-1 which is currently being tested in clinical trials. One of those trials involves patients with COVID-19 in Northwestern. PAI-1 causes blood to clot, which is a major contributor to coronavirus morbidity and organ damage.

The Geroscience Academy will train and educate clinicians, students and scientists on the rapid advancements in the science of aging.

“Considerable progress has been made in understanding what aging is,” Vaughan said. “It’s going beyond the realm of science fiction to imagine altering the rate of aging in humans. The potential impact this can have on us and our children and grandchildren cannot be overstated.

“We want to be recognized not only as one of the epicenters of aging research, but also for teaching our students, faculty and the world the science of rapidly evolving aging.”

Center for Population and Aging Sciences

Scientists at this center will use and refine existing tools to demystify the aging process in large human populations of all ages.

“There are already well-defined biochemical and genetic markers that can be used to calculate a person’s physiological age and predict their risk of age-related diseases,” Vaughan said. “These tools will only improve and become more precise in the years to come.

“Our biological age is not determined by the number of times we have circled the sun as passengers on planet Earth. The complex biological changes associated with aging impact almost every aspect of a person’s health. one person, but some populations appear to be less affected by aging than others. “

Center for Nanosciences and Aging

This center will leverage some of Northwestern’s unique strengths to develop nanotechnology devices, novel diagnostic measures and innovative anti-aging therapies and drug delivery platforms.

“This center will improve our ability to measure the biological age of patients and develop new precision therapies that will alter the trajectory of aging,” Vaughan said. “Scientists will develop new devices to measure specific physiological parameters that reflect age. For example, the older you get, the slower you walk, the variability in your heart rate decreases and blood pressure increases. Maybe we could track these types of functional disorders. real-time changes in patients included in clinical trials. The goal will be to see if we can have an impact on the physiological age of the patient, perhaps with specific lifestyle interventions or new therapies. “

Fundamental and translational biology

There is already a tremendous amount of basic and translational research in the area of ​​aging taking place at Northwestern. National Institute of Aging (NIA) research funding has reached more than nearly $ 40 million since 2016, placing it 13th in overall NIA funding.

“We anticipate that the resources and new scientific momentum created by the Longevity Institute will enable Northwestern to be recognized as one of the world’s leading institutions in the field of human aging and longevity,” said Vaughan.


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