Andrey Tsvetkov, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neurology of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and Graduate School faculty member, has been awarded the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research Breakthroughs in Gerontology (BIG) Award from the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR).
Tsvetkov is affiliated with the GSBS Programs in Cancer Biology and Neuroscience.
The BIG Awards provide $300,000 for research projects that offer significant promise of yielding transforming discoveries in the fundamental biology of aging or that build on early discoveries with the potential for translation to clinically relevant strategies, treatments, and therapeutics to benefit human aging and health span. Awardees are selected through a competitive process by committees of distinguished scientists working in the field of aging research.
“Sponsored by the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, in collaboration with the American Federation for Aging Research, the Breakthroughs in Gerontology initiative provides support to research projects which, if successful, offer significant promise of yielding transformative discoveries in the fundamental biology of aging,” Tsvetkov said. “I am honored that my research is recognized by this award.”
Tsvetkov received the grant for his research “G-quadruplex RNA and G-quadruplex RNA helicases in senescent astrocytes.” Senescence is a homeostatic mechanism that prevents division of old or damaged cells and cancerous transformation.
“Our project will target molecular mechanisms that regulate G-quadruplex-RNA-associated aging in senescent astrocytes with a future goal for developing anti-senescence therapeutic interventions,” Tsvetkov said.
Besides permanent cell cycle arrest, senescent cells go through a number of observable changes such as a global repression of translation, chromatin rearrangement, metabolic reprogramming, specific epigenetic modifications, and morphological changes.
A key feature of senescence is the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP), which involves secretion of growth factors, cytokines, chemokines, and metalloproteinase that mediate non-cell-autonomous senescence effects. RNA is emerging as a critical regulator of cellular senescence, although molecular mechanisms of RNA-associated senescence are not clear.
Tsvetkov’s collaborator on the project is Nitin Tandon, MD, professor and chair ad interim of the Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School and fellow GSBS faculty member. For the research, Tandon provides human astrocytes removed during surgery.
“The research supported through these 2021 grants will encourage the development of novel approaches aimed at helping us live healthier, longer,” notes K. Leonard Judson, CEO of the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research. “The Glenn Foundation for Medical Research is pleased to partner with AFAR to support early career and established investigators through these grant programs.”