Population aging is a remarkable success that, in part, reflects advances in science and medicine. The increase in life expectancy also poses significant challenges, as aging itself is the greatest risk factor for most chronic diseases. Nathan K. LeBrasseur, Ph.D., M.S., studies the biological processes that drive aging to develop novel interventions that delay, if not prevent, age-related conditions. The recent work of Dr. LeBrasseur's lab has centered on cellular senescence, a cell fate caused by diverse forms of damage, and the impact of senescent cells on physical function, metabolism and resilience.
- Mechanisms of skeletal muscle aging. Dr. LeBrasseur and his team are studying how aging affects the health and function of cells that compose skeletal muscle, and how these changes result in skeletal muscle loss, fibrosis and fat infiltration at advanced ages. By developing interventions to counter the biology of aging, including cellular senescence, Dr. LeBrasseur and colleagues intend to optimize skeletal muscle strength and physical function and, in turn, prevent disability and frailty in older adults.
- Biomarkers of biological age. There are often marked differences between chronological age (based on date of birth) and biological age (determined by the amount of damage to molecules and cells within the body). The research led by Dr. LeBrasseur seeks to develop measures of biological age using routinely collected blood samples. These measures can be leveraged in clinical practice to determine and manage risk related to medical interventions such as surgery, and in clinical research to identify people who may be most responsive to novel interventions targeting the biology of aging.
- Lifestyle factors and aging. Aging is malleable and strongly influenced by both positive (physical activity and healthy nutrition) and negative (substance misuse and poor sleep habits) behaviors throughout the life course. The research conducted by Dr. LeBrasseur's lab explores the mechanisms through which lifestyle factors influence the body's defenses against, or ability to repair, diverse forms of age-related damage. Recent investigations have focused on how exercise can prevent the accumulation — and promote the clearance of — senescent cells.
Significance to patient care
Dr. LeBrasseur's goal is to identify safe and effective ways to promote healthy aging and optimize the clinical care of older adults. Dr. LeBrasseur's lab seeks to help guide clinical decision-making; develop innovative approaches to prevent, delay, or even reverse chronic diseases and geriatric syndromes; and enhance late-life function, independence and well-being.
- Director, Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging, Mayo Clinic, 2022-present
- Chair, Cellular Mechanisms in Aging and Development Study Section, National Institutes of Health, 2021-present
- Co-director, Mayo Clinic Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research, 2021-present
- Scientific director, Office of Translation to Practice, Mayo Clinic, 2021-present
- Vincent Cristofalo Rising Star Award in Aging Research, American Federation for Aging Research, 2019