“We’ve put more effort into helping folks reach old age than into helping them enjoy it.”
– Frank Howard Clark

We WANT to CHANGE this

Uncovering cellular responses to genotoxic Stress


The Gurkar lab is interested in defining the molecular mechanisms that drive aging in response to endogenous DNA damage, which accumulates in all of us over time. The majority of individuals over the age of 65 years suffer from at least two chronic degenerative diseases- neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer etc. These chronic diseases of the elderly consume an increasingly large fraction of our health care costs and rob individuals of their independence and quality of life. Developing therapies to target the primary risk factor for all of these diseases, aging itself, is a promising yet challenging solution. The first step is to define the molecular mechanisms that drive aging. We believe that this will reveal novel therapeutic targets that can be further harnessed to extend healthy life.

Research Interests

Unraveling the mysteries of aging at the cellular and molecular level

Nucleo-Mitochondrial Communicome

Nucleo-Mitochondrial Communicome

Nucleo Mitochondrial Communicome

Nucleo-Mitochondrial Communicome

The central hypothesis that guides our research is that stochastic, endogenous nuclear DNA damage alters cellular and metabolic programs, leading to progression of multiple, age- related degenerative diseases.

Our lab characterizes novel regulators of DNA damage-dependent metabolic reprogramming. To study this we use the strengths of two very powerful model systems: the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans  (C. elegans), a genetically tractable model organism to identify pathways involved in mitochondrial dysfunction in response to nuclear DNA damage; and mice, a physiologically relevant model in which to pursue “hits” to ultimately support rapid translation of new knowledge to human aging.

DNA damage & Heart disease

DNA damage & Heart disease

DNA damage and Heart disease

DNA damage & Heart disease

Problems with DNA repair pathways have been observed in cardiac failure patients. Additionally, recent data suggests that pediatric patients treated with genotoxic agents, develop disabling or life-threatening age- related diseases compared to their siblings.  This includes stroke, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease.

Research in the Gurkar lab utilizes a model that lacks DNA repair in the cardiac muscle of mice to uncover crucial components essential for defense against such genotoxic stress.

DNA damage & Neurons

DNA damage & Neurons

Genotoxic stress response in post-mitotic cells

Replicative cells respond to DNA damage with cell fate decisions such as cell cycle arrest, cellular senescence or apoptosis. However, how mitotic cells respond to such nuclear genotoxic stress in not well understood.

There is some evidence that improper DNA repair in neurons (post-mitotic cells) contributes to neurodegenerative decline. Patients with defects in nucleotide excision repair (NER) exhibit several neurological symptoms such as microcephaly, mental retardation and deafness. Cockayne syndrome (CS), trichothiodystrophy (TTD) and Ataxia Telangiectasia (AT) are all characterized as neurodegenerative syndromes and are linked with dysregulated DNA repair. Therefore, we are interested in molecular mechanisms modulated by DNA damage in post-mitotic tissue with the goal for intervention against such debilitating diseases.


Czerwińska J, Nowak M, Wojtczak P, Dziuban-Lech D, ..., Gurkar A.U., ..., Oliński R, Speina E, Niedernhofer LJ, Tudek B. (2018) ERCC1-deficient cells and mice are hypersensitive to lipid peroxidation. Free Radical Biol Med.

Gurkar AU., Robinson A.R., Cui Y., ..., Niedernhofer L.J. and Gill M.S. (2018) Dysregulation of DAF-16/FOXO3-mediated stress responses accelerates oxidative DNA damage induced aging. Redox Biol.

Zhang L., Zhao J., Gurkar AU., Niedernhofer LJ., and Robbins PD. (2018) Methods to quantify the NF-κB pathway during senescence. Cell Senescence - Methods in Molecular Biology.

Robinson A.R., Yousefzadeh M.J., Rozgaja T.A., .., Gurkar AU., .., Kelley E.E.† and Niedernhofer L.J.† (2018) Spontaneous DNA damage to the nuclear genome promotes senescence and aging. Redox Biol

Meet The Team

Aditi Gurkar

Aditi Gurkar

Aditi U. Gurkar, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Aditi GurkarAditi U. Gurkar is an Assistant Professor in the Aging Institute, Division of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. I believe that aging is one true mystery that surrounds us. Aging is inescapable and unfortunately the principal risk factor for a number of diseases including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer disease (AD). If we can therefore unlock this mystery at a molecular level, we could uncover the Fountain of Youth and live healthier, fuller lives.

Education : B.S.: Florida International University in Miami. Here, I studied Cystic fibrosis (CF) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in Dr. Kalai Mathee’s lab and to perform bedside-to- bench research moved to Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital, Boston. In Dr. Steve Lory’s lab I analyzed colonization patterns of respiratory tract bacterial communities in pediatric patients to better understand mechanisms driving CF severity and antibiotic resistance.

Ph.D.: I pursued my Ph.D. in Dr. Cyrus Vaziri’s lab at Boston University School of Medicine and was most fascinated when it became clear that DNA damage, which accumulates through life, contributes to aging pathologies.

Post-doc: Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School & Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. As a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Sam Lee’s lab, I performed high-throughput screens to identify small molecules that could reactivate mutant p53, a tumor suppressor mutated in ~50% cancers. I also worked on molecular mechanism(s) that regulate autophagy, a process required to maintain organismal homeostasis and central to the aging process.

I then moved to The Scripps Research Institute, FL to work on the direct impact of DNA damage on aging and age-related decline. My work here has uncovered cellular responses to genotoxic stress that reprogram metabolism and precede cell-fate decisions to influence aging. My long-term goal is to understand how DNA damage-associated metabolic changes impact aging. My other passions in life include making science education fun for pre-schoolers, painting with my kids and I have a M.S. in Indian classical dance.

Most inspired by: “Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born” - Albert Einstein

Aging Institute
Geriatic Research Education and Clinical Center
Vascular Medicine Institute
University of pittsburgh
Shruthi Hamsanathan

Shruthi Hamsanathan

Shruthi Hamsanathan

Research Scientist

Shruthi HamsanathanMy research interest has always been towards understanding complex biological mechanisms. I am particularly fascinated by transport mechanisms occurring at biological membranes. I find this as an interesting challenge for a cell, as it should maintain the membrane integrity while it transports proteins or other biomolecules across the membrane for survival.

During my Ph.D at Prof. K. Sankaran's lab in Anna University -India, I worked on bacterial lipoprotein biosynthesis. My research revealed a novel role for Tat (Twin arginine translocation) in transporting lipoproteins across bacterial cell membranes. I also demonstrated that bacterial lipid modification pathway can be used as a novel protein engineering tool. After my Ph.D, I moved as a postdoctoral fellow to work on Tat pathway in Prof. Siegfried Musser's Lab at Texas A&M University. I was particularly intrigued about Tat transport system as it solves a seemingly complex problem: transporting large folded proteins through membrane without collapsing the membrane permeability. I systematically examined the interaction of a Tat substrate with the translocon and deciphered the mechanism by which this substrate would migrate through the membrane bilayer. I am interested in developing innovative experimental designs that combine biochemical, biophysical, molecular biology and computational approaches to unravel complex biological mechanisms.

I am passionate about music and I sing occasionally. I love photography, street photography in particular. I also love to cook and develop new recipes with an Indian flair.

Lucile Marchal

Lucile Marchal

Lucile Marchal

Lucile MarchalI have always been interested in biology and had the chance to study biochemistry, cellular biology and physiology at the University of Besançon (France) during my B.S. equivalent. I then joined the bioengineering program of the Polytech'Nice Engineering School of the University of Nice (France), where I learned more about biotechnologies and pharmacology.

I then discovered a passion for tissue engineering, performing two internships at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine of the University of Pittsburgh. During my first internship in Dr. Stephen Badylak's laboratory, I investigated the use of Extracellular-Matrix (ECM) hydrogel as a treatment for two disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, in a rodent and a canine model. The year after I joined Dr. Bryan Brown's laboratory, where I focused on the use of ECM-based biomaterials to treat nerve injuries. In a second project we compared the use of ECM scaffolds with polypropylene mesh in a hernia repair murine model, in young and old animals.

I am excited to now expand my research into aging, as it is linked to the development of so many diseases and its understanding will help to develop treatments to numerous disorders.

In my free time, I like listening to music, dancing and drawing, especially portraits, landscapes and still life.

Shruthi Hamsanathan

Viktor Naumovski

Viktor Naumovski


Shruthi HamsanathanAt Duquesne University I received a degree in biochemistry with a biology minor and continued on to earn a master's degree in forensic science and law. During my time there I did research focusing on the inactive ingredients present in OTC cold medicine. In my free time I like to stay active through running and playing sports and I also enjoy reading. While I am still figuring out my long-term goals, I like to learn and apply science in the context of better understanding the mechanisms in the human body and how that knowledge could be used to improve life down the road.

Joy Hart

Joy Hart

Joy Hart

Kirsten Schwoegl

Get Involved

Lab Fun


Contact Us

Available Positions

Gurkar lab celebrates Diwali 2018


Celebrating an 'ice cream' moment in the Gurkar Lab

Tom, the lab mascot

Hanging out in Madison for the C. elegans meeting!

Go pirates!

The worm club attends Pirates baseball game, May 2018.

Aging Institute winter party, 2018

Our Recommendations

Hybridization of science and art

Check out one of our favorite artist. Greg Dunn designs.


Radiolab can be heard as a podcast produced by WNYC.

Breakthroughs “Age of Aging”

National Geographic Channel’s series directed by Ron Howard highlighted aging research as a breakthrough in Nov 2015.

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks- always inspiring!

November 2018

Pepper Retreat

Pepper Retreat 2018
Very first time to present our findings about human aging!

Diwali 2018
Gurkar lab celebrates Diwali 2018

Diwali Party

October 2018

Cold Spring Harbor

Cold Spring Harbor - Mechanisms of Aging
Such an excellent meeting! We got an opportunity to present some of our work at this awesome meeting.

July 2018

Aging, Metabolism, Stress, Pathogenesis and small RNAs' in C. elegans
What a fantastic meeting

New Funding
Oklahoma Nathan Shock Center

New Funding
Thank you to The Oklahoma Nathan Shock Center for pilot funding awarded to the Gurkar Lab.

May 2018

FrARR 2018 in Xavier University, New Orleans

Aging Institute study the biology of aging
Aging Institute study the biology of aging

DOM Research Day Poster Award

March 2018

Aging Institute Pilot funding

Aging Institute Pilot funding
Thank you to the Aging Institute (UPMC) for pilot funding awarded to the Gurkar/Opresko Labs

February 2018

Pepper Center Pilot funding
Thank you to the Pepper Center for pilot funding awarded to the Gurkar lab (collaborators: Drs. Greenspan, Resnick, Perera, Narasimhan)

New Funding

January 2018

UPMC Aging Institute

Action News
Aging Institute study the biology of aging

Aging Institute study the biology of aging

Finally a functional lab

Aging Institute study the biology of aging

Contact Us

Gurkar lab

Phone: (412) 624-7494
Email: agurkar1@pitt.edu

Administrative Assistant: Beth Thomas

Phone: (412) 864-2507
E-mail: eat8@pitt.edu

Thank you for your interest.

Open Positions

We are looking for fun, skilled and highly motivated individuals excited to work with a scientific team focused on understanding the base of age-related disease such as neurodegeneration, cancer and cardiovascular disease. ​

Send c.v. with name, email, and phone numbers of references to agurkar1@pitt.edu

Lab Manager/ Research Specialist

Mouse-house Technician

Post-doctoral Fellows