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Dr. Ryan Dhindsa receives a grant to study aging

Awards

Dr. Ryan Dhindsa, assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and principal investigator at the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (Duncan NRI) at Texas Children’s Hospital and recent recipient of the prestigious 2023 NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, has received The Longevity Impetus grant to support his research on aging. This grant will provide Dr. Dhindsa who is a physician-scientist with $200,000 over two years to pursue his research project titled, “Genetic resilience to Aging”.

Aging is a complex process influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Two well-established molecular causes of early mortality are clonal hematopoiesis, which refers to the clonal expansion state in the blood-forming system and shortened telomeres, which is a region of repetitive DNA at the ends of chromosomes.

Typically, individuals with shortened telomeres and clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP) generally exhibit higher vulnerability to aging and related diseases. However, a small population of individuals with these features have been found to be resilient to aging and live longer than expected. Dhindsa intends to focus on this population to identify genetic variants that confer resilience could pave the way for therapeutic strategies. To date, most studies of resilience have focused on common variants but that approach has not been entirely successful. Therefore, Dr. Dhindsa proposes to uncover rare genetic variants that directly confer resilience to aging in this cohort of individuals.

Protective genetic associations provide some of the most robust and actionable drug targets. In 2022, 66% of FDA-approved drugs were supported by human genetics data. By bringing this modifier genetics approach to aging, Dr. Dhindsa hopes to identify which genes or pathways would make most effective targets for human longevity.

Started in 2021, the goal of Impetus Grants, is to fund ideas in the that are typically ignored by traditional funders. Since then, they have deployed more than $24 million into science, supporting a number of aging clinical trials, biomarkers, novel tools, and model organisms. This round of funding was launched in August of 2023 with Hevolution and Rosenkranz foundations to focus on high-risk high-reward studies in aging science.

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