Center for Aging COBRE Grant

Aging and Regenerative Medicine

Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE)

Baby-boomers are coming of age: the graying of our population

Aging is often defined as a progressive decline in the ability of an organism to withstand stress, damage, and disease. It is characterized by an increase in the incidence of degenerative and neoplastic disorders. Aging plays itself out over a lifetime, proceeding at a varied pace in different individuals in whom its manifestations display marked heterogeneity. The U.S. population is projected to increase to 438 million in 2050. At the same time, those over the age of 65 will increase to 20% of the population. By the year 2020, there will be nearly 10 million Americans over the age of 85. On the other hand, 77% of current workers stated that they expected to work past the age of 65, according to a 2008 Pew Research Center survey. This points to the imperative of enhancing function ability and quality of life in an aging population. Thus, our COBRE is dedicated to furthering basic, translational, and clinical research that leads to healthy aging.

Research Projects:

Stem cells respond to their immediate microenvironment to proliferate, differentiate or synthesize matrix proteins as one of the primary mechanisms by which the body regenerates damaged tissues. It is known that the mechanical environment is critical for cellular function in certain tissues; yet, it is unclear how stem cells respond to those cues and how this changes with age. Dr. Taby Ahsan has found that applying mechanical input can direct stem cell differentiation, that this mechanoresponse is mediated by the balance of force inside and outside the cell, and that these types of cues can directly influence the regenerative potential of cells.

Dr. Edward Golob identified two distinct neurophysiological mechanisms in the brain that may underlie age differences in spatial attention control, and also found preliminary evidence that individual differences in higher-level cognition buffered the effect of aging. This expands knowledge of how attention is allocated over space and how it is controlled in real-time, and bears on the role of attention in various theories of cognitive aging. He has been relating these mechanisms to cognitive reserve, which has public health importance because it helps maintain independent living and possibly mitigates the impact of incipient age-related neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Sangkyu Kim studies the hereditary elements that contribute to healthy aging and longevity. The study of these genetic and epigenetic factors will help identify underlying biological pathways. Knowledge gained through this project may benefit the public by providing awareness of biological and environmental contributions to healthy aging. Knowledge of environmental modulators of healthy aging will prompt lifestyle changes that promote public health. Identification of genetic and epigenetic factors and their biological pathways may lead to healthy aging interventions.

pathogenesis. TGFβ1 is known to be key driver of this disease, but it is unclear how its effects on lung aging are mediated.

Dr. Cecilia Sanchez has discovered an association between sirtuin 1 and 3 signaling and changes in mitochondrial metabolism and cellular homeostasis during myofibroblast differentiation, a hallmark of pulmonary fibrosis. This research will lead to therapies to delay or treat lung fibrosis and improve organ function in the elderly.

Dr. W. Lee Murfee established a new tool for microvascular research that enables probing of multi-cell interactions during angiogenesis.  The model allows for time-lapse imaging of the same microvascular network during angiogenesis and investigation of pericyte-endothelial cell interactions at specific vessel locations within a real network - capabilities which do not exist in current angiogenesis models. Application of this rat mesentery culture model provides a simple and unique method for screening the effectiveness of pro- or anti-angiogenic therapies on real, intact microvascular networks and thus reversing age-related increases in microvasculature resistance.

Dr. Andrea Zsombok has collected exciting preliminary data indicating that activation of autonomic brain circuitry contributes to the regulation of systemic glucose levels. Her studies focus on the contribution of TRPV1 to the regulation of glucose homeostasis and the consequences of diabetes on the system. Obesity and diabetes are of increasing significance with aging; therefore, exploring novel mechanisms can lead to alternative strategies to improve glucose homeostasis through centrally directed therapies.

Through COBRE funding, the core has expanded its instrumentation under the leadership of Dr. Malwina Czarny-Ratajczak, with the purchase of the Ion Proton next-generation sequencing system. This augments existing equipment, including ABI3130xl sequencers, Illumina Beadstation GX, ABI7300 real-time PCR machine, and others. Dr. Leann Myers is the core biostatistician. This Core collaborates closely with the Next-Generation Sequence Data Analysis Core lead by Dr. Erik Flemington in the Cancer Genetics COBRE at Tulane University.

The Aging and Regenerative Medicine COBRE supports 22 jobs!

This includes 3 technicians, 1 undergraduate student, 6 graduate students, 2 postdoctoral fellows, 9 faculty, and 1 administrative staff.  In addition, 8 senior faculty serve as mentors in the program.



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