New Glenn Foundation Postdocs Start Research Projects

Glenn Foundation PostdocsPostdoctoral fellows are the lifeblood of Buck Institute research. These young scientists – who have received their PhD – do the yeoman’s work in our 19 laboratories and spark groundbreaking interdisciplinary research with their colleagues.  A recent $1 million grant from the Glenn Foundation will fund two years of research for 10 scientists, each of them a recipient of a “Glenn Foundation Training Fellowship in the Biology of Aging.”

“The Buck Institute has an excellent track record of training and preparing leading researchers in the mechanisms of biological aging and its relationship to chronic disease,” said Mark Collins, President of the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research. “Our founder, Paul F. Glenn, has a long history of providing support to the Buck Institute and its scientists. We are delighted to continue this support via the establishment of these training fellowships.”

Two of the awardees are senior postdocs, already at work in Buck labs:

Jim Flynn, at the Buck since 2008, is a mouse biology expert in the Melov lab. He will be looking at mouse models of osteoporosis and determining whether reducing mTOR signaling (induced by the drug rapamycin) influences age-related bone loss. mTOR is a regulatory protein that controls growth, metabolism and protein turnover which integrates signals from the cell and from the environment to sense nutrient and energy conditions. Jim has a previously established body of work on mTOR signaling in the heart, vital to controlling age-related changes leading to heart failure. His project asks a new question that explores the potential benefits of mTOR inhibition as a means of extending healthspan of our skeletal system.

Irina Perevoshchikova came to the Brand lab in 2011. Her project is aimed at determining ways to decrease the severity and incidence of type 2 diabetes, an age-related disease. Irina has given herself a particularly challenging task. She will be determining the rates and mitochondrial sites of  free radical production in pancreatic beta cells, something that has not been attempted in any cell type up to this point. Mitochondria are the "power houses" of the cells. Free radicals are a natural product of mitochondrial metabolism. In pancreatic beta cells native rates of free radical production are thought to be involved in the secretion of insulin, the hormone involved in blood sugar control. But "too many" free radicals can cause problems. Irina says its essential to discover the sites and rates of free radical production in pancreatic beta cells to determine how pharmacologic interventions might assist optimum function of those cells with age.

Four new postdocs have received fellowships; the remaining hires will be announced in late October:

Hansong Deng received his PhD, with honors from Tsinghua University, China. He has joined the Jasper lab, arriving from the UCLA Geffen School of Medicine where he built a track record of outstanding work on the role of Parkinson’s disease genes and their impact on mitochondrial dynamics. At the Buck, he will analyze the effects of mitochondrial dynamics on age-related dysfunction in adult stem cells. Hansong’s work will bridge the interests of several laboratories at the Buck and is expected to foster many collaborations.

Daniel Edgar comes to the Lithgow lab from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, where he worked on mitochondrial DNA mutations and aging. Daniel will be looking at the relationship between metal toxicity and aging in the nematode worm C. elegans – a new area of inquiry in the Lithgow lab. Preliminary data indicates that an organism loses the ability to maintain the proper balance of metals as it ages and that this loss contributes to age-associated mortality.

Chong He recently finished her PhD at Peking University. She is initiating a new project in the Kennedy lab to develop small molecules that extend both lifespan and healthspan. This project – in collaboration with Texas A & M University – involves screening small molecules for specific effects on the yeast cell cycle that correlate with longevity. One molecule has already been shown to significantly delay yeast aging and several others are being tested. Her project will determine whether the molecules affect aging in multiple invertebrate species and elucidate their mechanisms of action.

Ilan Riess is now a member of the Lamba lab. His work, involving stem cell technology, will help drive forward efforts to understand and develop therapies for macular degeneration, one of the most significant causes of morbidity in the elderly. Ilan received his PhD from the University of Turin, Italy. His research is focused on retinal regeneration by reprogramming human fibroblasts either into induced pluripotent stem cells or directly into photoreceptors.

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