Insights, Views, and Interviews
Grantee Spotlight Interview: Christin Burd BACK
Published by Gemma Martinelli
AFAR’s grant programs in the biology of aging are central to our mission to support and advance healthy aging through biomedical research. At leading institutions nationwide, our grantees hard work, ingenuity, and leadership are advancing cutting-edge research that will help us all live healthier, longer.
AFAR is proud to introduce our newest grantees. In this Grantee Spotlight interview, Christin Burd, PhD, shares what inspired her to enter the field of aging research and how AFAR’s support's will impact her research.
Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
What inspired you to get into aging research?
In some ways, aging research found me. As a graduate student and postdoc, my work focused on understanding the mechanisms that control cellular proliferation. Uncontrolled proliferation is a hallmark of cancer, and most of my research initially centered upon this disease. However, the failure of cells to divide appropriately can be equally detrimental, contributing to multiple age-related diseases. With support from programs sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and experts in the field, I was able to transition my research in a new direction, focusing on the role of proliferative control in aging.
How will AFAR’s support further your research at this point in your career?
Faced with a tight budget, Assistant Professors are often compelled to work on ‘safe’ research projects with somewhat predictable outcomes. Funding from AFAR has given me the ability to pursue an important and timely question in aging biology that might have otherwise been put on hold.
What’s exciting about your research’s potential impact?
Exciting, proof-of-principal experiments have shown us that the elimination of senescent cells from aged animals can rejuvenate some tissues and stave off age-related disease. This observation has led many to pursue novel therapeutic approaches aimed at eliminating senescent cells from the body. Unfortunately, very little is known about the evolution and dynamics of senescent cells during normal human aging. Where and when do these cells form? At what point do they contribute to age-related disease? Are senescent cells in some tissues more detrimental than others? Are there instances where senescent cells are physiologically beneficial? Using a novel system that allows us to track the dynamics of individual, senescent cells in vivo, we will finally answer these nagging questions. Our results will bring the field closer to finding a 'cure' for age-related diseases by helping to identify where, when and how novel therapeutics will be most effective.
In three sentences, how would you describe your research?
As we age, our ability to recover from illness and injury declines and we are more susceptible to conditions like diabetes, dementia, cancer, heart disease and frailty. Scientists have linked these age-related ailments to increases in the number of cells in our bodies that can no longer regenerate. My work will help scientists understand how, where, when and why these 'senescent' cells are formed, and define which ones make us more susceptible to age-associated conditions.