Evading age: Drs. Daohong Zhou and Guangrong Zheng receive $2.5 million NIH grant to study selective elimination of senescent cells

Zheng and Zhou
Drs. Guangrong Zheng, left, and Daohong Zhou, right, collaborate closely on anti-aging research.

The scientific team of Daohong Zhou, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacodynamics, and Guangrong Zheng, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicinal chemistry, have received a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, to study selective elimination of senescent cells. Their research has the potential to extend human lifespan by preventing and treating age-related diseases.

Cellular senescence, when cells cease to divide, is a fundamental mechanism of aging; they promote aging and are involved in many age-related diseases, including atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis and cancer. Selective elimination of these senescent cells with small molecules, known as “senolytics,” has become a new ‘anti-aging’ strategy. Zhou and Zheng have chosen to study the senolytic “BCL-XL proteolysis targeting chimeras,” because of its senescence-eliminating power and lower risk of adverse events in elderly patients.

Zhou and Zheng are no strangers to NIH funding. The two previously worked together in different labs at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. But in 2018, they brought their NIH funding with them to the University of Florida College of Pharmacy where they now work under the same roof and can more seamlessly collaborate.

Zhou, who is also a radiation oncology professor and Henry E. Innes Professorship of Cancer Research, is the contact principal investigator on the grant. Zheng and Jennifer H. Elisseeff, Ph.D., a professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, are the other principal investigators.