Pulmonary experts seek to improve understanding of age-related lung disease with NIH-approved postdoctoral training

By 2034, we will face a demographic shift when Americans aged 65 and older will outnumber children under the age of 18. Inevitably, this population shift calls for adaptation in our communities and in the medical field. Adaptations that require clinicians informed about aging.

Recognizing this need, The Ohio State University College of Medicine and the Department of Internal Medicine, in collaboration with the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, have obtained a T32 grant for postdoctoral in the Biology of Aging and Lung Diseases.

The Biology of Aging and Lung Diseases training is a three-year program for those holding an MD or PhD, and its curriculum follows a physician-scientist model. Unlike other training programs, this T32 grant will focus on aging as a centerpiece of training. Not only will mentors guide physicians in improving treatment measures for the elderly, but they will also improve researchers’ approaches to uncovering age-related lung diseases.

Ana Mora, MD, professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the Ohio State College of Medicine, serves as contact principal investigator of the training grant. She says prioritizing age is crucial to adapting medical practice in lung-related diseases, since as our cells age, so does our risk for illness. While certain factors can either accelerate or decelerate cell aging, a person’s age is the determining factor in resilience.

“With age comes a lot of changes, physiologically, in your cells and in your organs,” Dr. Mora says. “So, the capacity to repair is really deteriorated, and that increases the severity of diseases that happen, but also the risk of new diseases, like, for example, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.”

Additionally, to widen approaches to lung disease within the scope of aging, a wide range of program mentors provide a cross-disciplinary perspective. Instead of clinicians and researchers only understanding one aspect of aging or lung disease, those completing this T32 training will develop further expertise in many fields, including senescence and metabolism, immunity and host defense, injury and repair, environmental exposures, therapeutics and transplant and biomedical informatics. With a multifaceted approach and more tools in their toolkit, future scientists may be able to uncover findings in pulmonary research that are mysteries to us now.

“The purpose of the T32 grant is to train the next generation of scientists, physician-scientists and also PhD scientists, who can actually tackle the problems of why aging takes center stage in driving, in part, the pathogenesis of these lung illnesses,” says Rama Mallampalli, MD, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the college.

With some students already enrolled in the Biology of Aging and Lung Diseases training program, the future looks bright for physicians and patients alike.

Learn more about the program, or contact Dr. Mora at Ana.Mora@osumc.edu.