Understanding the genetic mechanisms of aging and longevity
Anne Brunet, Ph.D, is a professor of genetics at Stanford University and Co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Biology of Aging at Stanford since 2011. The core mission of the Paul F. Glenn Laboratories at Stanford is to explore the fundamental mechanisms of the biology of aging, focusing on the mechanisms of mammalian stem cell and tissue aging. Another key focus of the Glenn Laboratories at Stanford University will be to invest in the conceptual and technological advances to conquer new frontiers in aging research.
The Burnet lab has a long-standing interest in the genetic pathway that connects insulin to FOXO transcription factors, a central pathway to regulate lifespan from worms to humans. They use a combination of genetic, molecular, and cellular approaches to analyze the regulation and importance of FOXO transcription factors, and more generally 'longevity genes' in mammals. We are particularly interested in the role of longevity genes in the maintenance of the pool of adult neural stem cells and intact cognitive function during aging. We also use ultra-high throughput sequencing technologies to study epigenetic changes and transcriptional networks during aging.
In parallel, their goal is to identify novel longevity genes using short-lived animal models—the nematode C. elegan—to identify novel pathways that control organismal longevity, particularly in response to dietary restriction. Dr. Brunet is particularly interested in the role of chromatin modifiers in the regulation of lifespan and metabolism.
Her lab is also developing the extremely short-lived African killifish N. furzeri as a new vertebrate model for aging studies. In 2009, they created the first genome-wide microsatellite linkage map in N. furzeri, which provides a framework to map traits, such as longevity, that differ between different strains of N. furzeri. Their development of genetic tools in N. furzeri and the collection of different populations with differences in longevity are major steps in isolating novel longevity genes that are possibly vertebrate-specific. This project also has the potential to reveal the evolutionary forces that shape lifespan differences in the wild.