Nicholas Wade’s excellent article on the science of aging in the Times this week made me think about the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging here at Mayo and its director, James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D. One of the major researchers in the Center is Jan van Deursen, Ph.D., who is trying to discover – at the cellular level — why we age the way we do. This week Dr. van Deursen was honored by the Mayo Board of Trustees with a named research professorship. He is now the Vita Valley Professor in Cellular Senescence. That’s the natural process by which cells are damaged and stop functioning, leading to the release of factors that destroy nearby cells. It’s one of the body’s ways of defending against cancer, but it also contributes to organ disfunction in old age. Harnessing or redirecting some of these natural processes may protect against many diseases and people healthier, longer.
The professorship was sponsored by The Noaber Foundation of the Netherlands. Vita Valley is its non-profit spinoff that focuses on health care innovation.