Why is aging the largest risk for developing so many apparently disparate diseases, ranging from neurodegeneration to cancer? One answer to this question lies in the evolutionarily selected, stress-responsive state termed cellular senescence. Senescent cells cease proliferation, which prevents early life cancer. They also secrete numerous molecules that promote tissue repair and regeneration. However, because senescent cells gradually accumulate with age, they eventually cause tissue degeneration, chronic inflammation, and many age-related diseases, including, ironically, late life cancer.
The Campisi lab studies the regulation and characteristics of cell states, with an emphasis on cellular senescence. We use simple and complex human and mouse cell cultures, intact human and mouse tissues, and mouse models to understand the molecular pathways that drive cellular senescence and other cell states. We also use genetic and pharmacological manipulations to understand how cell states cause both the degenerative diseases of aging as well as cancer and to design strategies to modulate or ameliorate their effects.
Why it matters
Aging is a complex, multisystem process that exacts an enormous emotional and economic toll on societies. Understanding and manipulating this process is the next big challenge in biomedical research. It is now clear that many age-related changes and pathologies are caused by cellular responses to endogenous and environmental stimuli. Understanding these responses is essential to developing safe interventions that can extend the years of healthy life in human populations.
Modern medicine has enabled us to extend lifespan - often at the expense of healthspan. My lab is focused on disrupting one of the major drivers of aging. Our goal is to enable more healthy years of life.
Judy Campisi, PhD
Dr. Campisi received a PhD in biochemistry from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and completed her postdoctoral training in cell cycle regulation at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. As an assistant and associate professor at the Boston University Medical School, she studied the role of cellular senescence in suppressing cancer and soon became convinced that senescent cells also contributed to aging. She joined the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as a senior scientist in 1991. In 2002, she started a second laboratory at the Buck Institute. At both institutions, Dr. Campisi established a broad program to understand the relationship between aging and age-related disease, with an emphasis on the interface between cancer and aging.
Dr. Campisi is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
She has received numerous awards for her research, including two MERIT awards from the National Institute on Aging and awards from the AlliedSignal Corporation, Gerontological Society of America, and American Federation for Aging Research. She is a recipient of the Longevity prize from the IPSEN Foundation, the Bennett Cohen award from the University of Michigan, and the Schober award from Halle University, and she is the first recipient of the international Olav Thon Foundation prize in Natural Sciences and Medicine. Dr. Campisi currently serves on advisory committees for the Alliance for Aging Research, Progeria Research Foundation, and NIA’s Intervention Testing Program. She is also an editorial board member for more than a dozen peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Campisi is a scientific founder of Unity Biotechnology, a California-based company focused on developing therapies for age-related pathologies. She has served on the scientific advisory boards of the Geron Corporation, Sierra BioScience, and Sangamo Biosciences.
Fatouma Alimirah, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr. Alimirah received a PhD in cell and molecular biology from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. She determined the functional role of two distinct vitamin D receptor isoforms in breast cancer during her graduate studies. In the Campisi lab, she is investigating how cellular senescence contributes to breast and skin carcinogenesis.
Serban Ciotlos PhD Candidate, USC-Buck Biology of Aging Program
Serban completed his B.S. in Bioengineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2011. From 2012 to 2013, he worked in systems and software engineering at Roche Molecular Systems, and from 2013 to 2017, he worked in bioinformatics at Complete Genomics. His research focuses on investigating the role of senescence in cardiovascular disease, using single cell profiling techniques.
Albert Davalos, PhD Staff Scientist
Dr. Davalos investigates the role of cellular senescence in distinct aging pathologies. He was involved in discovering that a nuclear protein called high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) is the earliest marker of senescence. When secreted by senescent cells, HMGB1 acts as a damage-associated molecular pattern (DAMP) molecule. In contrast to the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP), DAMPs exhibit a distinct biological profile. He is investigating their role as markers of senescence and their contribution to the cellular senescence response. In parallel, he collaborates with various research groups to examine how cellular senescence drives various cancers and may act in aging pathologies in patients administered long-term treatment of anti-retroviral therapy. Dr. Davalos received his BS from California State University, East Bay, and obtained his PhD at the University of Texas.
Karen Davis , MD Visiting scientist
Dr. Davis had a career as an anesthesiologist and general medicine practitioner in the community. At present, she is interested in mechanisms of inflammation and aging. She has a particular interest in the degenerative disease sporadic inclusion body myositis as well as sarcopenia associated with aging. Karen Davis is an Independent Visiting Scientist
Abhijit Kale, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Originally from Pune, India, Dr. Kale did his undergraduate studies in microbiology at the University of Pune. He started his research career at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India, where he studied endocytosis in metazoans under the guidance of Dr. K. S. Krishnan. He received his master’s and PhD degrees from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, where he studied the role of cell competition during development of an organism in the lab of Dr. Nick Baker. He is currently a SENS postdoctoral fellow in the Campisi lab, where he is studying the interaction of senescent cells with immune cells. In his free time, he likes to hike and travel.
Koji Kitazawa, MD, PhD Visiting Scientist
Dr. Kitazawa completed medical school and received a PhD in medicine from Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Japan. During his PhD student, he studied the cellular reprogramming of corneal epithelial cells at Center for iPS Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University. He specializes in ophthalmology, and his research focus is cellular senescence in the eye, and he is currently investigating the way to keep more healthy years of the eye longer in the Campisi lab. Dr. Kitazawa is visiting from Kyoto University
Dong Eun (Clare) Kim, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr. Kim is originally from South Korea. After finishing her undergraduate and graduate studies at Seoul National University, South Korea, she obtained her master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh and completed her PhD at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Her current research interest is understanding the role of cellular senescence in DNA damage responses and aging using prematurely aging mice driven by a defect in DNA damage repair.
Chisaka Kuehnemann PhD Candidate, USC-Buck Biology of Aging Program
Chisaka is a PhD candidate in the Buck-USC graduate program, where she is studying cellular senescence, a basic aging process. Prior to joining the Buck, she did oncology drug discovery at Human Genome Sciences. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. Her particular research focus is in understanding how certain drugs, such as those used in anti-retroviral therapies, might promote aging by inducing cellular senescence, especially since these drugs have been shown to accelerate aging in human patients. Outside of the lab, she reads science fiction, designs costumes, and is an avid cook.
Francesco Neri Pre-doctoral Fellow
Francesco received his B.S. in biotechnology at the University of Bologna (Italy) in 2017 and then completed his M.S. in pharmaceutical biotechnology at the University of Bologna (Italy) in 2019. He joined the Campisi lab in 2019 where he works on cellular senescence and senescence-associated exosomes.
Tanya Pulido Research Associate
Tanya completed her B.S. in biological sciences at the University of California, Davis, in May 2018. Tanya joined the Campisi lab in January 2016 and is currently assisting Dr. Fatouma Alimirah with her research on senescence and cancer.
Corey Webster, PhD Postdoctoral Fellow
Christopher Wiley, PhD Research Assistant Professor
Dr. Wiley’s research focuses on the study of aging in the context of cellular metabolism, particularly as it pertains to the process known as cellular senescence. Cellular senescence is a stress response by which cells adopt a state of permanent mitotic arrest. More than simple arrest, the senescent phenotype is complex and includes a senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) that leads to secretion of multiple biologically active molecules, including proinflammatory cytokines, matrix metalloproteinases, and growth factors, that can have potent effects on the tissue microenvironment. Recently, a series of advancements have placed both senescence and the SASP at center stage with regard to variegated maladies associated with aging. Despite these advancements, senescence is still studied largely in the context of replicative exhaustion, genotoxic stress, or oncogene activation, all of which result in highly similar senescent phenotypes.
Christopher’s work has focused on two areas. First, he identified compromised mitochondrial function as a potentially important inducer of senescence. Unlike other inducers of senescence, mitochondrial dysfunction drives senescence with a distinct SASP. This new paradigm for senescence highlights the plasticity of the senescent phenotype and reveals an unexplored vector by which mitochondrial dysfunction can drive aging phenotypes such as lipodystrophy, thinning skin, and cancer. Second, he found that senescent cells secrete several eicosanoids, which are signaling lipids that promote inflammation, fever, hair loss, parturition, asthma, fibrosis, and other conditions. This senescence-associated eicosanoid biosynthesis acts to promote the SASP, reinforce mitotic arrest, and promote pulmonary fibrosis. Together, his findings reveal new insights regarding the nature of cellular senescence and offer alternative avenues for intervention for associated disorders such as aging.
SSu Yu Yeh Master's student
Eva is currently an master's student and a visiting scientist from the MCB department of National Tsinghua University in Taiwan. She is working with Postdoctoral Research Fellow Clare Kim in the Campisi lab for ten months to assist in the aging of skin cells.
Ying Zou Senior Research Associate and Lab Manager
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