Dr. Michael Grant
Faculty of Medicine
Dr. Grant was awarded a 2019 ARC-NL Research Grant for his project entitled,
Vaccination to Reduce Age-Related Morbidity.
ARC-NL: What piqued your interest in this area of research?
I have studied the immunology of human immunodeficiency virus infection for over 30 years. With greatly improved antiviral treatments through that time, a syndrome of accelerated aging has emerged as a major clinical problem. This syndrome is linked with cytomegalovirus infection and accumulation of senescent cells. In a number of different experimental systems, including natural aging, elimination of senescent cells is beneficial to health.
ARC-NL: Can you please provide a brief synopsis of your specific project?
A new class of drugs termed senolytics is under development to eliminate senescent cells and promote healthy aging. So far, these drugs are fairly non-specific, non-potent and cause some side effects. Senescent cells express a protein, p16Ink4a, that can be targeted by the immune system when expressed in cervical cancer cells. Our project involves stimulating the immune system against p16Ink4a as a way to eliminate senescent cells. We previously identified T cells specific for cytomegalovirus as the circulating lymphocytes closest to senescence, so focused on these cells to investigate expression of p16Ink4a and susceptibility to immune recognition.
ARC-NL: How did getting the support of the ARC-NL Research Grant assist you with your project?
Support from ARC-NL allowed me to move forward to purchase the specific materials required to obtain preliminary results for this project.
ARC-NL: How do you feel your research will benefit the aging population of Newfoundland and Labrador? Canada?
I am confident the field of senolytic therapy will ultimately benefit healthy aging in humans. Our approach of training one’s own immune system to eliminate senescent holds promise to reduce side-effects and provide greater versatility compared to current senolytic drugs.
ARC-NL: Is there any past experience that you feel is pertinent to your success today?
I believe the accelerated aging syndrome in persons living with human immunodeficiency virus has a mechanism overlapping with unhealthy aging in the general population.