By Cristina D’Imperio

Nam Vo, PhDNam Vo, PhD, McGowan affiliated faculty and tenured Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Deputy Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, is the Principal Investigator (PI) on a new R-01 award from the National Institute on Aging.

Dr. Vo’s study, titled “Mechanisms of Cellular Senescence Driving Intervertebral Disc Aging through Local Cell Autonomous and Systemic Non-Cell Autonomous Processes,” focuses on intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD).

IDD, a condition that is most common in older adults, occurs when a person’s spinal discs wear down. Spinal discs act as shock absorbers between vertebrae, and as the discs wear away, the bones begin to rub together. Most people experience some degree of disc degeneration after the age of 40, even if they are asymptomatic. IDD leads to back pain in approximately 5% of adults.

IDD is also the underlying cause of numerous other spinal disorders, resulting in severe or debilitating back pain and in some cases disability.

Dr. Vo’s lab has previously studied the impact of persistent DNA damage on senescent cells and their relationship to promoting disk aging and degeneration. The team’s latest research seeks to determine whether cellular senescence drives disc aging locally, systemically, or both. Additionally, Dr. Vo’s lab will study which cellular senescence pathways drive local and systemic impacts.

By determining these factors, Dr. Vo and his fellow researchers ultimately hope to identify therapeutic drug interventions to mitigate disc degeneration in older adults.

Read the full project abstract here.

Find out more about Dr. Vo’s work here.