Santa Fe Institute Collaboration Platform

COMPLEX TIME: Adaptation, Aging, & Arrow of Time

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Contact: Caitlin Lorraine McShea, Program Manager,

Aging in Single-celled Organisms: from Bacteria to the Whole Tree of Life/Toward a Molecular Understanding of Quiescence versus Senescence

From Complex Time

February 10, 2020
3:45 pm - 4:15 pm


Sabrina Spencer (CU Boulder)


Cellular aging is often used synonymously with cellular senescence, a state of permanent cell-cycle exit associated with DNA damage and cytokine secretion. However, senescence is easily confused with quiescence, in large part due to lack of reliable markers.  We have found that the gold-standard senescence marker, senescence-associated beta-galactosidase activity, is unreliable in that it can stain strongly positive in cells that are actively dividing. We have also found that establishing a homogeneous population of senescent cells is quite difficult since many cells continue to cycle and out-proliferate senescent cells, despite the use of standard senescence-inducing treatments. Thus, the senescence field has a chicken/egg problem in that one cannot study senescence if no reliable markers exist to identify senescent cells, and one cannot develop a senescence marker without a truly senescent sample in hand. We are therefore developing a functional readout to identify cells that have not cycled in n days, where n is triggered and defined by the researcher and can be several months long. In this way, we can isolate a homogeneous senescent population that can be profiled and compared to quiescent cells to develop better markers for quiescence vs. senescence and to better study cellular aging.

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