Inside AFAR
Inside AFAR

Insights, Views, and Interviews

Mar 29
2:48 pm

Grantee Spotlight Interview: John Collins, PhD View MoreBACK

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 lives.

Explore more in this Grantee Spotlight Interview:

John Andrew Collins, PhD
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2018 The Irene Diamond Fund/AFAR Postdoctoral Transition Awards in Aging

What inspired you to pursue aging research?
My interest in aging began during my Masters studies where I examined how changes in normal cell signaling contribute to age-related joint diseases such as osteoarthritis (OA). OA is a leading cause of disability in adults, yet there is a lack of specific treatments that can slow or stop OA progression. My PhD studies focused on delineating the age-related changes that occur in cartilage in order to discover novel treatments that could lead to disease modifying therapies for OA. Currently, I am continuing this research as a postdoctoral researcher at the Thurston Arthritis Research Centre at UNC, where I am honored to work alongside exceptional basic and clinical researchers dedicated to aging research. The ongoing support from these investigators continually enhances my progression as a scientist in order to achieve the goal of translating our findings into disease-modifying therapies that will benefit our society.

In your view, what does AFAR mean to the field, and what does it mean, for you, to receive an AFAR grant now?
AFAR is dedicated to pursuing innovative science in order to discover new therapies to treat age-related diseases and increase our  healthspan. AFAR’s dedication to enhancing the in-depth study of aging, at all levels, places it at the forefront of aging research. AFAR promotes collaboration at every opportunity, and I am continually motivated by the chance to engage with leading scientists and medical professionals through AFAR. It is an honor to receive an award from AFAR. This award will give me protected time to pursue a highly interesting research question and will help in my transition from a postdoctoral research fellow into an independent faculty member. AFAR’s support also allows me to continue to work alongside innovators in the field of aging in order to conduct novel research that will lead to interventions that will slow or stop the progression of age-related OA.

What’s exciting about your research’s potential impact?
OA affects over 30 million adults in the United States; although osteoarthritis of both the hip and knee are one of the leading causes of global disability, there are currently no disease-modifying treatments available for OA. A better understanding of how aging contributes to the development of OA will lead to new therapies that slow or stop OA progression. This will have a major impact on public health. My research aims to develop new therapies with a more targeted approach aimed at the specific pathways affected by aging that contribute to OA. Moreover, as age-related changes in stress-signaling responses underlie many pathologies, the findings from my research give valuable insights and targets for modulation of other age-related diseases in addition to OA.

In three sentences, how would you describe your research to one of your grandparents?
Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of global disability, and age represents the number one risk factor for osteoarthritis. Age-related changes in normal cell-signaling events may be an important mechanism that contributes to osteoarthritis development and progression. My research aims to identify the specific age-related pathways responsible for cartilage degradation and cell death, which will allow us to develop new and targeted treatments to slow or stop osteoarthritis.