Finkel Lab

Toren Finkel, MD, PhD
G. Nicholas Beckwith III and Dorothy B. Beckwith Endowed Chair of Translational Medicine Distinguished Professor of Medicine

Our lab is interested in the intersection between metabolism, mitochondrial function and aging.

Finkel Lab

Lab Focus

My laboratory’s interest in aging biology arose out of our observation that reactive oxygen species (ROS) could act as endogenous signaling molecules (Sunderesan, et al., Science, 1995). In that initial study, we showed that cells could purposively produce hydrogen peroxide as part of normal receptor-mediated physiological signaling. We, and others, subsequently firmly established this paradigm, and thereby dispelled the widely held notion that oxidants (i.e. free radicals) function within cells solely as stochastic and random damaging agents. These observations may us reevaluate the free radical theory of aging, which at the time was the prevailing explanation as to why we age. This has led us to broadly evaluate how changes in mitochondrial function and metabolism might regulate the aging process. Currently, we are focused on questions involving autophagy, mitochondrial calcium regulation, lysosomal integrity and senescence. I am also working with my colleagues Bill Chen and Yuan Liu to develop novel therapeutics for a range of age-related diseases. Several of our small molecules are currently in clinical development or clinical trials.

What question I’d like to answer

Can we leverage insights from aging biology to develop new therapies to treat age-related diseases?
Faculty Bio
Toren received his undergraduate degree in Physics and his MD and PhD degree from Harvard Medical School. Following a residency in Internal Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital, he completed a fellowship in Cardiology at Johns Hopkins Medical School. In 1992, after completing his clinical training, he came to the NIH as an Investigator within the Intramural Research Program of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Over the next 25 years at the NIH, Toren held various positions including Chief of the Cardiology Branch and Chief of the Center for Molecular Medicine within the NHLBI. He is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) and the Association of American Physicians (AAP). He has also been inducted as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine. Toren serves on numerous editorial boards including currently serving on the Board of Reviewing Editors for Science. As of Sept 1st 2017, he assumed the role of the Director of the Aging Institute, and the G. Nicholas Beckwith III and Dorothy B. Beckwith Endowed Chair of Translational Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh/UPMC. Toren became a Distinguished Professor of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2021.
Selected Publications

Sundaresan M, Yu ZX, Ferrans VJ, Irani K, Finkel T. Requirement for generation of H2O2 for platelet-derived growth factor signal transduction. Science. 1995 Oct 13;270(5234):296-9. doi: 10.1126/science.270.5234.296. PMID: 7569979.

Finkel T, Holbrook NJ. Oxidants, oxidative stress and the biology of ageing. Nature. 2000 Nov 9;408(6809):239-47. doi: 10.1038/35041687. PMID: 11089981.

Hill JM, Zalos G, Halcox JP, Schenke WH, Waclawiw MA, Quyyumi AA, Finkel T. Circulating endothelial progenitor cells, vascular function, and cardiovascular risk. N Engl J Med. 2003 Feb 13;348(7):593-600. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa022287. PMID: 12584367.

Balaban RS, Nemoto S, Finkel T. Mitochondria, oxidants, and aging. Cell. 2005 Feb 25;120(4):483-95. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2005.02.001. PMID: 15734681.

Liu J, Cao L, Chen J, Song S, Lee IH, Quijano C, Liu H, Keyvanfar K, Chen H, Cao LY, Ahn BH, Kumar NG, Rovira II, Xu XL, van Lohuizen M, Motoyama N, Deng CX, Finkel T. Bmi1 regulates mitochondrial function and the DNA damage response pathway. Nature. 2009 May 21;459(7245):387-392. doi: 10.1038/nature08040. Epub 2009 Apr 29. PMID: 19404261; PMCID: PMC4721521.

Current Lab Members

Jie Liu PhD – Research Associate Professor
Jay Tan PhD – Research Assistant Professor
Anita Saraf MD/PhD – Assistant Professor of Medicine
Roy Wan PhD – Research Assistant Professor
Travis Lear PhD – Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Shohini Ghosh-Choudhary – MD/PhD student
Shria Moturi – Pitt undergraduate

Research Support