• Article
  • Apr 27 2021

UK Researcher’s Work Included in 'Best of Cell Metabolism 2020' Collection

Research led by Barbara Nikolajczyk, Ph.D., was selected as "Best of Cell Metabolism 2020" Photo | UK Office of Research Communications

Annually, Best of Cell Press celebrates the highest-impact research published in their journals during the previous year. A paper by Barbara Nikolajczyk, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences and associate director for Translational Research in Diabetes at the University of Kentucky, has been included in “Best of Cell Metabolism 2020.” The paper focuses on age-associated inflammation.

Articles for these reprint collections are selected on the basis of full-text article usage as well as citation data. Ultimately the 10 most accessed articles were selected for the collection.

“This tells me there is a lot of interest in healthy aging, age-related inflammation, and diseases that epidemiologically track with age as a major factor,” said Nikolajczyk.

Age is a non-modifiable risk factor for the inflammation that underlies age-associated disease, and so drugs with the appropriate anti-inflammatory action hold promise for increasing the length of time people remain healthy, or healthspan. In the article published in June 2020, Nikolajczyk and her colleagues identified a previously unappreciated inflammatory signature that develops during healthy aging.

“People who are around 60 years old and of a healthy weight with no underlying medical conditions have inflammation with details that look a lot like inflammation that predicts obesity-associated type 2 diabetes in middle-aged people. These data raise the possibility that the metabolic decline, which often occurs with age, may be supported by naturally occurring inflammation,” she explained. The work then showed that drugs targeting age-related inflammation might stave off multiple age-related diseases including type 2 diabetes.

“Healthy aging does not mean that we will universally prevent age-related diseases. Our data suggest that the use of anti-inflammatories that are generally safe and are targeted to the inflammatory profile we have discovered may lower occurrence or severity of many age-related diseases, like type 2 diabetes, but also perhaps cancers and autoimmunity.”

Dr. Philip Kern, with UK HealthCare’s Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center and director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences at UK, co-authored the article and provided clinical expertise. Others at UK who contributed include biologists Kai Jiang and Zhenheng Guo, and analysts Jing Liu, Gregory Hawk and Katherine Thompson.