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Full speed ahead for senescence science: SenNet updates

Pragati Katiyar
Pragati KATIYAR,
Health Science Specialist,
Division of Aging Biology (DAB)

The author thanks former NIA colleague Viviana Perez-Montes for her assistance with this post.

NIH launched the Cellular Senescence Network (SenNet) through its Common Fund program in 2021 as a resource for investigators. Research in the fast-growing field of cellular senescence explores how damaged cells, which stop multiplying but linger and continue to release chemicals, might hold the key to revitalizing tissues. SenNet-supported scientists are currently developing publicly accessible, comprehensive, high-resolution atlases of senescent cells (SnCs), highlighting the differences among them and the molecules they secrete.

This recently published paper showcases SenNet and describes plans to develop innovative tools and technologies. Read on for more information on the network’s progress as well as advances in the broader cellular senescence field.

Progress but still many unanswered questions

Researchers have published in total more than 600 peer-reviewed journal articles on senescence and senotherapies (treatments to eliminate or delay SnC burden) in the past five years alone. Still, there are many remaining unanswered questions about the promise and potential of senotherapies. For example, currently there are no known biomarkers that can holistically identify cellular senescence across the variety of physiological processes and conditions related to senescence. Additionally, any potentially negative effects of eliminating SnCs remain largely unknown.

SenNet’s establishment and evolution

SenNet’s first-year milestones have been successfully completed and include establishing standard operating procedures for human sample collection, preservation, and analysis; data quality assurance; and developing a virtual biorepository system. The 2021 and 2022 cohorts of awarded scientific teams have successfully accomplished their first-year goals, and collaborations have been established to advance and validate SenNet research findings and tools, which will eventually be available to the entire research community. The SenNet steering committee has also established working groups to tackle issues such as policy, biomarkers, outreach, benchmarking, publications, data coordination, and imaging-mapping.

Coming Up: Summer program for underrepresented trainees

In 2023, SenNet will launch the Comprehensive Underrepresented Summer Internship Program (CUSP), a training opportunity for undergraduate students from populations historically underrepresented in science. These trainees will learn the latest senescence research and technologies in SenNet host labs and participate in the annual SenNet meeting as a valuable career development and networking opportunity.

Overall, NIA is optimistic about the future of SenNet, not only for its potential to advance human health research, but also for the opportunities the program can offer to early-career scientists interested in this promising field. For more information, email me or visit the SenNet website.

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