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  • Undergraduate Research in the Molecular Sciences

College of Science, Health & the Environment

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  • Undergraduate Research in the Molecular Sciences 2016 (URMS11)

    Who: Undergraduate students involved in chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology research in Minnesota, North Dakota, and the surrounding region
    When: September 30-October 1, 2016
    Where: Minnesota State University Moorhead, Langseth Hall

    Featured Speakers:

    Dr. Marissa Schafer and Dr. Andrew Haak

    Cellular Senescence as a Driver of Fibrotic Pulmonary Disease

    Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive, fatal disease characterized by lung remodeling, leading to severely compromised structure and function. Cellular senescence, a stress-induced state of cell cycle arrest, is causally implicated in numerous age-related diseases1. Senescence markers are detectable within chronologically aged2 and IPF lung tissue3-5, and deletion of senescent cells rejuvenates aspects of lung function in naturally aged mice6. Whether and how senescent cells mechanistically regulate IPF or if their removal may be an efficacious intervention strategy is unknown. Through examination of IPF tissue and transcriptome datasets, we discovered elevated abundance of senescence effectors and senescence associated secretory phenotype (SASP) factors, with p16Ink4a expression increasing concordantly with disease severity. We demonstrate that the secretome of senescent fibroblasts, which can be selectively killed by a senolytic cocktail, dasatinib plus quercetin (DQ)7, is fibrogenic. Leveraging a mouse model of IPF, we show that suicide-gene-mediated ablation of p16Ink4a-expressing senescent cells improves pulmonary function, body composition, and physical performance, while attenuating bronchoalveolar inflammation. DQ treatment replicates benefits of transgenic clearance. Thus, our findings demonstrate that fibrotic pulmonary disease is mediated, in part, by senescent cells, which can be pharmacologically targeted to improve physical health and function

    1. Childs, B.G., Durik, M., Baker, D.J. & van Deursen, J.M. Cellular senescence in aging and age-related disease: from mechanisms to therapy. Nat Med 21, 1424-1435 (2015).
    2. Calhoun, C., et al. Senescent Cells Contribute to the Physiological Remodeling of Aged Lungs. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 71, 153-160 (2016).
    3. Chilosi, M., Carloni, A., Rossi, A. & Poletti, V. Premature lung aging and cellular senescence in the pathogenesis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and COPD/emphysema. Transl Res 162, 156-173 (2013).
    4. Lomas, N.J., Watts, K.L., Akram, K.M., Forsyth, N.R. & Spiteri, M.A. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: immunohistochemical analysis provides fresh insights into lung tissue remodelling with implications for novel prognostic markers. Int J Clin Exp Pathol 5, 58-71 (2012).
    5. Hecker, L., et al. Reversal of persistent fibrosis in aging by targeting Nox4-Nrf2 redox imbalance. Sci Transl Med 6, 231ra247 (2014).
    6. Hashimoto, M., et al. Elimination of p19ARF-expressing cells enhances pulmonary function in mice. JCI Insight 1.
    7. Zhu, Y., et al. The Achilles' heel of senescent cells: from transcriptome to senolytic drugs. Aging Cell 14, 644-658 (2015).



    Marissa Schafer, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation within the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at Mayo Clinic. She received a BA in Biology and Chemistry at Minnesota State University Moorhead and a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology at New York University. Her doctoral research focused on identifying molecular signatures underlying Alzheimer’s disease, hippocampal aging, and neuropathology prevention through calorie restriction. As a postdoctoral fellow, she continues to pursue her passion for understanding the mechanisms by which intervention strategies extend healthspan and lifespan. Her research leverages in vivo models and human studies to elucidate targetable mediators of aging conditions, including cellular senescence and metabolic imbalance.


    Andrew Haak, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the department of physiology and biomedical engineering at Mayo Clinic. He received a BS in Biochemistry from Minnesota State University Moorhead and a PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan. His doctoral research focused on small-molecule drug discovery and cell signaling associated with tissue fibrosis. His postdoctoral work is focused on developing novel therapeutic strategies to target mechanical and chemical signaling events which promote pulmonary fibrosis.

    URMS11 will have oral and poster presentations, talks by industry and academic professionals, workshops to help students prepare for their careers after undergrad, and plenty of opportunities for networking. 

    URMS RegistrationUndergraduate Research in the Molecular Sciences 2016 Abstract Submisison


    Meeting Schedule

    Friday | Langseth Hall/Comstock Memorial Union

    5:00 PM | Registration and Reception

    5:45 PM | Dinner (CMU)

    6:45 PM | Keynote Lecture: Cellular Senescence as a Driver of Fibrotic Pulmonary Disease

    Saturday | Langseth Hall

    8:00 AM | Judges Meeting

    8:30 AM | Student Talks

    10:15 AM | Coffee Break

    10:30 AM | Poster Session I

    10:30 AM | Poster Session II

    12:45 PM | Box Lunch & Breakout Sessions

    • Getting into Graduate School
    • Getting into Medical School
    • Getting into the Job Market

    2:00 PM | Award Ceremony/Closing

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