Institute of Healthy Ageing


IHA News and Events

New paper by the Gems lab throws new light on senescence causes

The study, published in Current Biology and funded by Wellcome, shows that normal biological processes which are useful early on in life, continue to ‘run-on’ pointlessly in later life causing age-related diseases.

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Congratulation to James Catterson on his Current Biology paper!

Intermittent fasting (IF) improves health and extends longevity in diverse model organisms. The fruit fly appeared to be the exception. A new paper from Catterson et al. now finds that IF in early adulthood increases healthy lifespan of fruit flies. The effects of short-term IF are long-lasting, indicating that even brief IF periods may have lifelong health benefits.

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Congratulations to Dr Adam Dobson on his paper in Aging and Mechanisms of Disease!

Ageing human populations present a huge societal challenge, and provides motivation to find ways to improve health in old age. Dietary restriction (DR), is one way to improve late-life health of animals from worms to mammals, and perhaps humans. This effect was first observed over 80 years ago, but the underlying mechanism has proven elusive. In this study, gene expression was profiled in diverse tissues of flies subjected to DR, and from these results a role for proteins called GATA transcription factors was predicted. Reducing expression of GATA transcription factors altered the effect of diet on lifespan, and targeting this knockdown to specific tissues reduced side-effects commonly associated with longevity. Therefore this study predicts that targeting GATA transcription factors in specific tissues may promote the benefits, but not costs, of DR.

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New report by Evgeniy Galimov and colleagues describes the occurrence of rigor mortis during the early stages of organismal death in C. elegans

Ageing does not cause death by itself but rather drives mortal pathologies. The nature of organismal death and how it is triggered by old age is relatively poorly studied in mammals and barely at all in C. elegans. The study from David Gems' lab, published in Cell Reports, describes a new death-related phenomenon in C. elegans – a wave of muscle hyper-contraction similar to mammalian rigor mortis. Unlike humans C. elegans lack a cardiovascular system, so rigor mortis in worms is an early step during the process of organismal death, likely caused by depletion of ATP. Rigor mortis precedes the blue fluorescent wave of intestinal necrosis, a previously discovered death phenomenon in C. elegans, and is closely coupled with it. Rigor mortis and intestinal necrosis are propagated in an anterior-to-posterior wave by calcium release, and long-lived daf-2 mutants appear resistant to organismal death. This study provides insights into Ca2+-mediated death mechanisms that are conserved from yeast to mammals, and is an interesting model for necrosis-driven neurodegenerative diseases. It defines another link in the chain of events from the development of senescent pathologies to death from old age.

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Philanthropic Donation to the Institute of Healthy Ageing

David Gems’s research group is delighted to announce the receipt of a philanthropic donation from the entrepreneur and writer Jim Mellon, chairman of Burnbrae. This donation (~£100K) will allow the purchase of a new structured illumination microscope system (Zeiss Apotome) which will be used in studies of ageing in animal models, particularly the development of senescent pathologies. This lovely instrument with its technical innovations will significantly enhance the capacity of research at the Institute of Healthy Ageing to understand the causes of ageing.

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IHA seminar - Dr Ritwick Sawarkar - 7 September 2017

Title: Chaperones@chromatin.nucleus: implications in development, ageing and evolution
Speaker: Ritwick Sawarkar (Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Freiburg, Germany)
Venue:  Darwin B15 (map)
Abstract: Heat-shock protein 90 (HSP90) is a chaperone thought to work mostly in the cytosol.  Our studies have identified chromatin and sites of gene expression as a novel location of the function of HSP90, raising the question how much of the HSP90 function can be attributed to its role in gene regulation. The talk will focus on the exciting function of HSP90 in buffering genetic variation. We found an unexpected role of HSP90 in buffering cis-regulatory variation, genetic differences in promoters and enhancers affecting gene expression. By using an epigenetic pathway, HSP90 represses the regulatory influence of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) on neighboring genes that are critical for mouse development. Our findings using natural genetic variation in the mouse genome add a new regulatory layer through which HSP90 uncouples phenotypic outcomes from individual genotypes.

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Gems Lab Summer Round Up

The Gems lab welcomes new research fellow Dr Jennifer Lohr, from Kiel University (Germany) - Jennifer is investigating evolutionary and mechanistic aspects of ageing in C. elegans - and says farewell to Dr Marina Ezcurra who is taking up a new position as a lecturer and Queen Mary's University of London.

A new joint study from the Gems and Tullet labs was published in Aging Cell, describing how the effects of SKN-1 on oxidative stress and lifespan can be uncoupled. This implies that this transcription factor, similar to mammalian Nrf2, influences lifespan by mechanisms other than protection against oxidative stress.

David Gems published two new essays on the general nature of ageing, “Aging: natural or disease? The view from medical textbooks” (in “Anti-aging drugs: from basic research to clinical practice” Royal Society of Chemistry; with Sarah Janac and Brendan Clarke), and “What is aging? ” in “AGE - From the anatomy of life to the architecture of living” (Crosstalks/VUB Press).

Marina Ezcurra gave a talk at the British Society for Research on Ageing, Thanet Sornda presented a poster at the International C. elegans Meeting in Los Angeles, and Hongyuan Wang at the Gordon Research Conference on the Biology of Aging in Switzerland. David recently gave talks at the conference "The Ageing Cell" at the Babraham Institute, and at Ghent University (Belgium), Leeds University, and the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing (Germany).

Two master's (M.Res.) students from the Gems lab obtained Ph.D. positions: Sophie van Schelt at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing (Cologne), and Chenhao Yang at the University of Maine. Well done both!

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Lectureship for Marina Ezcurra!

Currently a Wellcome Trust-funded postdoc in David Gems' lab, Marina Ezcurra will shortly be taking up a Lectureship in Neurobiology at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, where she will be setting up her own laboratory. There she will continue her investigations of the biology of ageing in model organisms, particularly C. elegans. The new post will also involve contributing to a joint programme with the University of Nanchang in the People's Republic of China. We wish Marina all the best in setting up her new lab!

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Research Technician post available

We are seeking a technician to work on a project investigating genetic modifiers of a fly model of frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (caused by C9orf72 mutation) in Professor Linda Partridge’s laboratory and Drosophila fly facility.

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Welcome to Magda Atilano

Welcome to Dr Magda Atilano who joins the Partridge lab at the IHA today. Magda is joining us from the Biochemistry department at University of Oxford where she worked in Drosophila immunity lab.
Welcome Magda!

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Welcome to Matías Fuentealba

The IHA extends a warm welcome to Matías Fuentealba who joins Linda Partridge’s group this week as a PhD student. Matias recently completed his Masters in Biological Sciences at the Universidad de Chile, where his work comprised a “study of the energetics and structural characteristics of NAD and NADP binding sites through statistical potentials.”

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IHA seminar - Olivia Casanueva - 2 November 2016

Title: Using inter-individual variability in gene expression to infer gene network architecture during ageing
Speaker: Olivia Casanueva (Babraham Institute, Cambridge)

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IHA seminar - Lisbet Temmerma - 5 April 2016

Title: Regulatory signals from the C. elegans nervous system involved in yolk production or ageing
Speaker: Lisbet Temmerma (KU Leuven, Holland)

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