Author: Kenny Wilson

Geroscience Course: Nutrients, Dietary Restriction, and Aging

Calorie restriction is a mechanism proven to extend lifespan in multiple model organisms (see our blog on calorie restriction and aging). However, a key question that remains is how? An even more intriguing question is why is calorie restriction more effective in extending lifespan in some organisms than others, or not at all? Diet-induced obesity is becoming an epidemic, particularly in the United States. Not surprisingly, as overeating increases, so does the incidence of obesity and related diseases. There is evidence that restricting dietary intake makes it possible to stave off obesity and a number of other diseases that one would not expect to be associated with diet such as cancer, neurodegeneration, and kidney disease. How does dietary restriction (DR) accomplish this? And is it a healthy practice for humans? Dr. Pankaj Kapahi at the Buck Institute has dedicated the core of his lab’s research to these questions. The Kapahi lab primarily utilizes fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) to understand the genetic mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of DR. DR is the process of limiting total or specific nutrients without causing malnutrition. One of the primary mechanisms by which DR affects the aging process is through the Target of Rapamycin (TOR) pathway. TOR has been shown to regulate growth and metabolism in multiple species by contributing to mRNA translation when upregulated. Nutrient intake contributes to TOR activity. So under...

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Neuropeptides and Aging: Breaking the Signaling Barriers Within the Body

The complexities of the brain are still largely unrevealed. Associations between neuronal decline with age and the onset of disease have been identified, but the specific mechanisms that regulate this decline are still unknown. Between neuron morphological changes, alterations of neuronal signals, and accumulation of protein masses in various brain regions, the realms of research are far and wide. As brain functions are responsible for approximately 20% of the body’s energy usage, further understanding of neurological function is essential for ensuring a longer and healthier life. In the first of a series of lectures associated with the graduate Geroscience course at the Buck Institute, Dr. Jennifer Garrison shed light on the field of neuropeptides and what is known about their roles in the aging process. These peptides are responsible for communicative signals between neurons and other regions of the body. Neuropeptide signaling changes with age, and frequently these changes induce detrimental effects in neurons. They are packaged in large dense core vesicles and cleaved by enzymes at each end to reach their mature forms, which then interact with G protein-coupled receptors to induce signaling. These receptors can be local, but may also be found in other regions of the body, which means that malfunction in a given neuropeptide’s production or transport can result in dysfunction in multiple systems. Interestingly, levels of the neuropeptide oxytocin are decreased in old mice...

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