In most western countries, life expectancy is increasing by 3 months a year. As the average age of
the population increases, so too does the prevalence of age-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular
and metabolic diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders. An essential component of ageing research is to
understand the biological mechanisms that contribute to the ageing process at the cellular and molecular
levels. This has major implications not only for the treatment of age-associated diseases but also for the
promotion of healthy ageing.
Studies of experimental animals and observations in humans have identified an array of genes and
nutritional conditions that increase lifespan. However, these manipulations (genetic or nutritional) often
have detrimental effects on other biological processes; for example, reproduction, metabolism, immunity
or growth. This is an area of ageing research that has largely been ignored but that is critical to the
success of strategies intended to slow ageing and thus the onset of disease.
The primary goal of this research proposal is to understand how lifespan extension is linked to
reproduction. We will use the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism to identify novel
conserved genes, molecules, and metabolic networks that link reproduction and longevity through
nutrition. The proposed study is based on a unique set of preliminary data that identifies the first
clear molecular links between these traits: a steroid hormone receptor and a reproduction-responsive
lipase, both of which modulate lifespan extension achieved through changes in nutrition.
Understanding the regulation and function of these genes and pathways will clarify at the molecular
level how reproduction is linked to longevity. This may ultimately lead to interventions that optimise
metabolic activity to promote healthy ageing.
Fields of science
Call for proposal
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