In conversation with Professor Laura Haynes, Field Chief Editor for Frontiers in Aging
Frontiers in Aging is an open access journal dedicated to advancing our understanding of human aging and age-related diseases, ultimately leading to improvement in health spans.
Professor Laura Haynes joins Frontiers in Aging in a new capacity as Field Chief Editor, having previously led its section devoted to Aging and the Immune System. Prof. Haynes is based at the UConn Centre on Aging and serves on the board for The Gerontological Society of America.
Here, Frontiers journal manager John Rushton asks Prof. Haynes about her research, her role as a Field Chief Editor, and the future of aging research.
John Rushton (JR): What drew you to the field of aging, and what is the current focus of your own research?
Laura Haynes (LH): I became interested in how aging impacts the immune system when I was a post-doctoral researcher. A colleague approached my post-doc mentor asking if we would be interested in collaborating and that collaboration turned into a very productive 30 year career (this is why I always tell my trainees to never turn down an offer to collaborate). I have gone from focusing specifically on the impact of aging on CD4 helper T cells to studying how aging influences the response to infections and vaccinations. I have also gone from focusing solely on studying mouse models to now also studying human subjects. This has allowed us to take a geroscience-based approach to understand how all aspects of aging are involved in immunity, including chronic viral infections such as CMV and EBV, frailty, and increased systemic inflammation. Currently, one of our main areas of focus is the role that senescence plays in age-related changes in immunity. There are now some really excellent tools for this including senolytics (drugs that target senescent cells) and transgenic mice that allow us to delete senescent cells and we are getting some very interesting insights into the role that the senescent environment plays. Overall, our goal is to understand what age-related changes do to immunity and find approaches that can mitigate these changes so that older adults can stay healthier longer.
JR: What motivated you to join and become Field Chief Editor for Frontiers in Aging?
LH: I became the inaugural Specialty Chief Editor of Frontiers in Aging: Aging and the Immune System when it launched in the spring of 2020. My goal for this section was to publish preclinical and translational studies that examined how aging and senescence impact the immune response. The overall objective was to improve the understanding of aging and immunity by focusing on the translational aspects that may improve human healthspan. We were very successful at getting this section up and running. We recruited a great team of Associate Editors and Review Editors and to date we have launched 14 Research Topics. In the summer of 2022, I was approached about becoming the Field Chief Editor for Frontiers in Aging and I was very intrigued by the offer. I think that this is a great opportunity to shape the direction of Frontiers in Aging. As was the case for Aging and the Immune System, I would like to give priority to geroscience-guided mechanistic and translational studies that address all aspects of aging. I look forward to this challenge and hope that our journal can be impactful in the field.
JR: In its first two years Frontiers in Aging has hit the ground running, publishing over 180 articles. What is your vision for the journal’s next steps?
LH: The next steps will be two-fold. First, I would like to get the word out to more investigators who work in the aging field that Frontiers in Aging is a great place to publish their work. Importantly, since aging research has exploded over the past 5 years because of the use of new technologies, many novel studies need to be published in a timely manner. My goal is to have a rapid and efficient review process without sacrificing scientific integrity. Rapid dissemination of important results is vital to keep the scientific community informed. In addition, Frontiers in Aging is now indexed in major international search platforms such as PubMed Central and Google Scholar, making it easy for readers to find the articles that we publish. Second, I would like to continue to expand the Research Topics offered to authors. These serve to focus authors and provide readers with a variety of manuscripts on a particular topic of interest. These also provide a venue for our editors to curate collections of articles that they see as important to the field. One new approach to Research Topics that I would like to introduce is to have topics that span two (or more) sections of Frontiers in Aging. For example, a Research Topic from Musculoskeletal Aging and Interventions in Aging could explore ways to keep older adults strong and preserve physical function in old age.
JR: What challenges and opportunities do you feel the future holds for aging research?
LH: The opportunities for aging research seem endless right now, especially since the world’s population is getting older. We need to have novel insights into the biological mechanisms that cause age-related changes as well as insights into how to overcome these changes. The use of a geroscience-guided approach, which strives to understand the genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that make aging a major risk factor for common chronic age-related diseases, will enable researchers to make meaningful progress in the field. We as scientists need to move away from our current silo-based approaches to studying individual hallmarks of aging towards a more systems based and integrated approach that can actually connect biology and function in older adults. The downside of this opportunity is that this can result in a great deal of poorly done studies and pseudoscience that should not be published in reputable journals. The goal of authors, reviewers and publishers should always be to ensure that the studies that are published are substantial and meaningful.
JR: Which areas of research would you like to see highlighted within Frontiers in Aging?
LH: I would like to see Frontiers in Aging highlight two areas especially: senescence and cancer. At the present time, there are great opportunities in both of these fields. The study of senescence has exploded over the past few years with the introduction of novel tools to examine its biological effect. Addressing the root cause of senescence and how this impacts age-related diseases in an excellent example of a geroscience-guided approach and has the potential to be very impactful for the health of older adults. The study of cancer in older adults is also important since age is one of the highest risk factors for developing the majority of cancers. Not only do we need additional translational work in this field, we also need to apply our geroscience-guided approaches to help us understand the mechanisms involved. There is exciting work happening in both of these fields and with the right editors and some interesting Research Topics, Frontiers in Aging will be poised to publish some exciting studies.
Please find the open Research Topics for Frontiers in Aging here.
For general journal information, submission details and to inquire about guest-editing a Research Topic, please visit the official website of Frontiers in Aging or contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Rushton is an experienced publishing professional working for Frontiers as a Journal Manager. He manages two journals, Frontiers in Aging and Frontiers in Genome Editing. John completed a masters by research in functional genomics at The University of York and has worked in research on molecular medicine at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital.