Rochester, Minnesota




Joao Passos, Ph.D., investigates the role of senescent cells in aging and age-related disease, with a particular focus on the role of mitochondria and telomeres in the process. His work demonstrates how cellular senescence depends on chronic DNA-damage signaling that results from irreparable damage to telomeres. Furthermore, Dr. Passos uncovered a key role for mitochondria in the induction of cellular senescence.

The goal of Dr. Passos' current work is to develop new therapies that target mitochondrial dysfunction to counteract the detrimental impact of senescent cells with aging and age-related diseases.

Focus areas

  • Telomeres. Dr. Passos' research has shown that telomeres can sense stress and become irreparably damaged during aging in a variety of tissues and age-related diseases. His laboratory has developed unique methodologies to analyze telomere dysfunction in multiple tissues using super-resolution microscopy and reporter systems that allow the visualization of telomere damage dynamics in live cells.
  • Mitochondria. Dr. Passos has identified a key role for mitochondria in cellular senescence. His research has shown that as people age, mitochondria become dysfunctional and produce excessive reactive oxygen species that can accelerate telomere damage, inducing premature senescence. Additionally, his research has shown that mitochondria are key regulators of the pro-inflammatory phenotype characteristic of senescent cells. His team is currently investigating the mechanisms by which mitochondria drive senescence with the hope of finding new therapies to increase healthspan as adults age.
  • Aging and age-related disease. Dr. Passos' research has shown a role for telomere-induced senescence in multiple tissues with aging and age-related diseases. His team is investigating the impact of therapies targeting the negative impact of senescent cells in multiple organs and age-related diseases. Current and past research has focused on aging of the lung, heart, liver and skin.

Significance to patient care

Dr. Passos' research aims to find new ways to target the aging process, thereby delaying the onset of multiple age-related diseases and increase healthspan. Aging is characterized by multimorbidities and is the major risk factor for all age-related diseases. Dr. Passos subscribes to the idea that decelerating the aging process can delay the onset of multiple diseases and significantly improve the quality of life of older people.


Primary Appointment

  1. Department of Physiology & Biomedical Engineering
  2. Section of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, Department of Internal Medicine

Academic Rank

  1. Professor of Physiology


  1. Ph.D. Newcastle University
  2. Master of Science University of Porto

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