Aging is the greatest risk factor for most chronic diseases, and chronic diseases account for the majority of morbidity and health care expenditures in developed nations.

This burden of frailty and loss of independence continues to threaten social and economic stability and the ability to deliver quality health care at affordable prices that older adults need and deserve.

The Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at Mayo Clinic is uniquely positioned to provide solutions and hope.

Recent research discoveries suggest that aging may actually be a modifiable risk factor. Our research efforts focus on increasing health span and quality of life for older adults, measured by the years of independent living and remaining free of age-related diseases and disabilities.

At Mayo Clinic, research drives everything for patients.

From providing the best individualized care to addressing the world's most challenging health care problems, our researchers relentlessly pursue discoveries that deliver hope and better health to people today and for generations to come. Our center's culture of collaboration and teamwork speeds the transformation of promising laboratory discoveries into lifesaving treatments.

The Kogod Center on Aging has a national presence, bringing together clinicians and scientists from all departments at Mayo Clinic's three campuses in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota in a unique collaboration that leads to innovative ways of studying aging.

Watch a video about the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging.

James L. Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D.

I've always found the process of aging itself to be fascinating, and wondered why it happens, and if something fundamental can be done to improve quality of life.

Excitingly, over the last five years or so, we've begun to realize that aging may in fact be a modifiable risk factor. We might be able to do something about these fundamental processes themselves. What Mayo's real strength is, is translating interventions that are discovered in the laboratory into human application.

We're trying to figure out ways where we can delay the onset of age-related disabilities, diseases and dysfunction as a group, so that we don't have to do things like prescribing better wheelchairs, better walkers.

What we all want to do is to be able to prevent people from getting to the point of needing those sort of interventions, so that we can keep people independent, functional, doing everything when they're in their 80s, 90s or hundreds as they were able to do in their 30s, 40s or 50s.

We need to do a lot more work. But if we can carry this off, and if we can translate these interventions into humans, we'd make a much greater impact than, say, curing cancer.

A significant discovery

In 2011, scientists from the Kogod Center on Aging published research that was named a "Top 10" discovery by the journal Science. The findings, which were published in the journal Nature, proved the role of senescent cells in the aging process. Today, we continue to build on this success.

To maintain health, most cells continuously divide to replace old and damaged tissue. But eventually cells age and stop dividing. This state is called cellular senescence. The body regularly clears out senescent cells. But with aging, the immune system becomes less effective at keeping house, and these senescent cells accumulate.

In what The New York Times called "a delicate feat of genetic engineering," our scientists engineered laboratory mice with senescent cells and then evaluated the impact on the health span of the mice when a drug was used to systemically eliminate senescent cells.

We found that the elimination of senescent cells delayed the onset of age-related disorders. More importantly, we showed that removing these cells later in life could actually slow the progression of age-related disorders already established in the mice. This allowed the treated mice to stay active and healthier longer than their untreated counterparts.

Research programs and themes

Building on these groundbreaking findings, our researchers have developed interventions that target senescent cells in an effort to improve the aging process by delaying the onset effects of aging as a whole. Our five research programs each focus on a different element of aging but have a shared goal to advance scientific discovery about how people age:

  • Cardiovascular Program.
  • Immunology Program.
  • Metabolism Program.
  • Musculoskeletal Program.
  • Neurology Program.

Alongside the research programs are four research themes:

  • Discovery Science.
  • Translational Research.
  • Clinical Studies.
  • Dissemination.

These research programs and themes are designed to bridge the gap between basic science and clinical application, providing a better understanding of the aging process.

The central administrative office of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging is in the Guggenheim Building on the Mayo Clinic campus in Rochester, Minnesota. A generous founding gift in 2002 allowed Mayo Clinic to establish the center, and our grand opening was Oct. 29, 2008.