Dr Catarina M. Henriques
Tissue Repair and Immunity in Ageing (TRIA)
Why we age and whether we can therapeutically prevent associated diseases has been my continued research motivation. And this is because age is the greatest risk factor for chronic diseases such as cancer, frailty, muscle atrophy, arthritis and many others. This means we are living longer than ever before, but with a heavy burden of disease which impacts on our quality of life and poses serious socio-economical challenges we must meet.
Ageing is underlined by a progressive decline in tissues ability to repair and maintain themselves. This is what is called tissue homeostasis impairment and sets the ground for age-associated diseases. A key mechanism contributing to this is telomere shortening and dysfunction. In organisms with restricted telomerase activity, which is the case of humans and zebrafish, telomeres shorten and get damaged with ageing, causing cells to die or become senescent. Senescent cells no longer divide and secrete factors that somehow impair the repair capacity of our tissues and organs, thereby contributing to disease.
Tissue homeostasis requires a tight balance between the clearance of senescent and damaged cells by the immune system and the replenishing of new cells from the stem cell niche.
My research programme focuses on understanding the interplay between immune regulation and tissue homeostasis in health and with ageing, using zebrafish as a model. My ultimate aim is to identify therapeutic targets that can be used to incentivate tissue rejuvenation and ameliorate multiple co-morbidities of ageing.
- Carneiro MC, Henriques CM, Nabais J, Ferreira T, Carvalho T, Ferreira MG- “Short Telomeres in Key Tissues Initiate Local and Systemic Aging in Zebrafish” PLOS Genetics 12(1):e1005798 20 Jan 2016
- Catarina M. Henriques, Madalena C. Carneiro, Inês M. Tenente, António Jacinto and Miguel Godinho Ferreira -“Telomerase is required for zebrafish lifespan” PLoS Genet. 2013 Jan; 9(1)