<p>Aging may be inevitable but it is not beyond human understanding or intervention. A group of scientists at Brown University studies of the basic processes of aging to learn why life span is so variable both between and within species. Their goals include increasing fundamental scientific knowledge and contributing to the development of anti-aging strategies based on this understanding.</p>

Sources (Contact: David Orenstein, david_orenstein@brown.edu, 401-863-1862)

  • Stephen Helfand, professor of biology;
  • Nicola Neretti, assistant professor of biology;
  • Robert Reenan, professor of biology;
  • John Sedivy, the Hermon C. Bumpus Professor of Biology and Professor of Medical Science;
  • Marc Tatar, professor of biology;

The researchers use advanced laboratory techniques in molecular cell biology and genetics, as well as computational analysis to conduct their research. They have also convened a regular series of lectures, free and open to the public, to promote further learning and dissemination of the field.

Success in the biology of aging will not prevent people from growing older but will enable them to do so healthfully — a concept Helfand calls “Healthspan.”

In their work, Brown scientists have discovered genes that affect lifespan, such as INDY and conducted influential research on genes such as Sir2, whose activity has been associated with extension of life span in various animal models. They’ve also studied how molecular signaling pathways, such as that of insulin or the reproductive system, can affect life span.

In genetics, the scientists have also learned how the body seems to lose control of the genome with age. Several recent findings both in human cell cultures and in mice indicate that aging cells allow “parasitic” snippets of DNA called “retrotransposable elements” to replicate relatively unchecked. Increased transposon activity appears associated with adverse health effects and reduced lifespan, for instance in fruit flies.