Sundeep Khosla, MD, professor of medicine and physiology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Clinical and Translational Science and consultant in the division of endocrinology, diabetes, metabolism and nutrition at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, was awarded the Frontiers in Science Award by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists at its annual meeting.
The award recognizes outstanding contributions by the recipient to his or her profession or area of expertise.
Khosla, a past president of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, is widely considered an expert on metabolic bone disease and currently serves as the editor-in-chief of the academic journal Bone.
Endocrine Today spoke with Khosla about his own education, the research that most interests him and his advice to graduating students to choose a career in a field that endlessly fascinates them.
What was the defining moment that led you to your field?
Khosla: There really were two “defining moments.” The first was during medical school, when I did an endocrine rotation and had Daniel Federman, MD, at Harvard Medical School, as my attending. I was struck by his vast knowledge of clinical endocrinology and overall approach to patients, and having him as a role model stimulated my interest in going into endocrinology. That decision was only reinforced during my residency years, and I eventually chose to go into an endocrine fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. As an endocrine fellow, I was heavily influenced by the approach to science that my research mentor, Henry Kronenberg, MD, demonstrated. I went to work in his laboratory and ended up pursuing a career in osteoporosis and bone biology research.
What area of bone disease research most interests you right now and why?
Khosla: I am currently very interested in the intersection of osteoporosis/bone biology research and fundamental aging mechanisms. My laboratory is in the Kogod Center on Aging at Mayo Clinic, and I collaborate closely with a number of investigators who are experts in studying aging mechanisms across tissues. Combining what I learn from them with my own knowledge about clinical and basic osteoporosis research has been very exciting and intellectually rewarding.
What are some of the most exciting advances that you have been a part of?
Khosla: There have been several, but two in particular stand out. The first was the demonstration by our group in the early 2000s, using a combination of epidemiologic studies, interventional studies in the clinical research unit and translational studies using mouse models that even in males, estrogen played an important — and certainly in humans, a dominant — role in regulating bone metabolism. This finding changed traditional thinking and led to the idea of potentially using selective estrogen receptor modulators to treat bone loss in aging men.
The second came out of my collaborations with James L. Kirkland, MD, PhD, an investigator in aging biology at Mayo, showing that cellular senescence played a key role in causing age-related bone loss in mice and likely also in humans. Because cellular senescence operates across tissues, these findings have contributed to a new approach to treat multiple aging comorbidities (eg, osteoporosis, metabolic dysfunction, vascular disease, frailty) by targeting this common aging mechanism as opposed to treating each comorbidity separately.
What advice would you offer to a student going into the field today?
Khosla: My strongest advice is to decide on a career path that excites them and stick with it, whether it is patient care, education, clinical research or translational/basic research. A corollary is that, within that career path, it pays to be an opportunist. For example, when I first joined Mayo Clinic, I started to work on medullary thyroid cancer as I had a clinical interest in that disease. However, an opportunity came up to work with the Mayo osteoporosis research group led, at that time, by B. Lawrence Riggs Jr, MD. I stayed within the overall career path of continuing to develop as a clinical investigator who also did laboratory-based translational/basic research, but signed on with Larry, perhaps the smartest career decision I ever made. Not only did I benefit from his mentorship as a clinical investigator, but under the larger program, I was able to access resources and funds that then allowed me to bootstrap my own, independent research program.
What’s up next for you?
Khosla: I truly look forward to coming to work every day and pursing my research, working with my friends and collaborators, having a small clinical practice, and contributing institutionally as principal investigator of our clinical and translational science awards program. For me, there is nothing I would change regarding this combination of professional activities. So, next for me is to keep writing grants to allow me to continue to do what I enjoy. – by Melissa J. Webb
Disclosure: Khosla reports no relevant financial disclosures.