The MDI Biological Laboratory has announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded a grant of $373,500 per year for five years to Aric Rogers, Ph.D., to support his research on the cellular and molecular mechanisms governing aging.
The understanding of these mechanisms that will be gained from this research holds the prospect of contributing to new therapies to delay or offset the effects of age-related diseases and conditions, and in particular the loss of muscle mass that occurs with advancing years -- a condition called sarcopenia.
The grant will support Rogers' continuing research on the mechanisms of aging in C. elegans, a nematode worm that is a popular model in aging research because of its genetic similarity to humans and its three-week lifespan, which allows scientists to quickly assess the effectiveness of anti-aging interventions.
In his career in aging biology, Rogers has focused on the study of the genetic pathways that regulate dietary restriction (DR), or a reduction in calories without malnutrition, which science has shown to extend healthy lifespan in a wide range of organisms, from one-celled yeasts to primates such as humans.
The reasons behind the ability of DR to extend healthy lifespan have been well demonstrated: because nature wants an organism to survive in order to reproduce, the genetic machinery of the cell shifts in response to a lack of food from an emphasis on growth to an emphasis on survival.
As part of its survival strategy, the cell enters a state of catabolism, meaning that cellular constituents are broken down for the energy and raw materials that are normally supplied by food. In his previous research, Rogers found that there is an exception to the reduced emphasis on growth, however: enhanced muscle maintenance.
The grant will support further research on Rogers' earlier findings, which showed that
muscle may be preferentially protected under conditions of DR. He hypothesizes that this is nature's way of ensuring that an organism is able to maintain the muscle strength and functionality needed to forage for food in the face of a scarcity of nutrients.