What Controls Organismal Aging?

What Controls Organismal Aging?

With a rapidly aging population pushing the boundaries of what our health care system can absorb, there has been an unprecedented, broad based interest in aging and longevity. Benefiting from dramatic technological advances in chemical biology and empirical findings, advanced in part by Dr. Wyss-Coray’s own research team, he believes that the time is right to ask some of the fundamental questions about aging: what controls organismal aging? Does it start in one tissue and spread to another? Or does aging start in one cell type, such as in stem cells or senescent cells, and spread to other cells and tissues? Or does it start simultaneously in all cells, driven by aging mitochondria, by failures in DNA or protein maintenance, or other mechanisms?

The proposed research will try to address these questions and follows from his laboratory’s groundbreaking discovery that soluble, heat labile factors in blood plasma are sufficient to accelerate brain aging or regenerate and rejuvenate old brains. These and studies with heterochronic parabiosis by others provide the foundation for his work supported by this prestigious National Institutes for Health research award. Dr. Wyss-Coray’s work will focus on demonstrating that soluble factors carry information about the biological age of an organism, that soluble factors can actively modulate aging, and that aging is malleable and possibly reversible. He proposes “to reprogram the genetic code in mice so that specific cells or tissues will synthesize proteins containing unique designer amino acids of our choice. These amino acids can later be chemically tagged to identify, track, or isolate proteins with amino acid substitutions. The goal of this research is to study the proteome of specific cell types and tissues during aging and in neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease.”

This work is funded by the National Institutes of Health through the NIH Director’s Pioneer
Award Program and the National Institute on Aging (NIA), grant number 1 DP1 AG 05315-01.
Information on the Pioneer Award Program is at nihroadmap.nih.gov/pioneer.