Course Number: GS-MB-430
Term 4, March 13-May 12, 2017
Tuesday and Thursday, 10:30 a.m. - noon
Location: Room N317 
Credits: 3
Grading system: A, B, C, F
Course Coordinator: Fred A. Pereira, Ph.D., 86933, fpereira@bcm.edu.

The purpose of this course is to provide students and post-docs with the most up-to-date information on current understanding of the aging process and age-related human disorders. The course not only covers molecular aspects of aging research, including models and theories of aging, but also clinical perspectives of aging. This advanced (elective) graduate course is offered for students who wish to either specialize in or have a strong background in the interrelated areas of development, aging and age-related diseases. Students are strongly encouraged to actively participate by posing questions and contributing to discussions of each topic. Grades are based on attendance (5 percent), participation (10 percent), and results of the final exam (85 percent). The course will culminate in a final exam, which is a take-home work-alone exam. You are encouraged to discuss / research a topic with classmates but you must complete the exam independently by yourself.

Lecture Topics

Theories of the Biology of Aging (March 14) Instructor: Qiang Tong, Ph.D. An overview and discussion of what is aging, measures of aging and life span, and the theories of aging will be presented.

Oxidative Stress, Mitochondria and Aging (March 16) Instructor: Qiang Tong, Ph.D. The role of oxidative stress in aging will be discussed. The function of mitochondria as the major cellular organelle for energy metabolism and ROS production will be presented.  In addition, the association of mitochondria and ROS with cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases will be mentioned.

Proteotoxicity (March 21) Instructor: Rick Sifers Ph.D. Proteins are the ultimate products of gene expression, and each must undergo a process of structural maturation. Damaged proteins, which are often incorrectly folded, are removed from cells through several regulated processes. This lecture will describe the major proteolytic mechanisms, discuss recent advances in our understanding of how regulated protein clearance declines during aging, and describe potential therapeutic interventions.

Wound Healing in the Elderly (March 23) Instructor: Aimee Garcia M.D. This lecture will focus on the changes that occur as a normal part of aging and how these changes affect wound healing. In addition, we will discuss the cellular changes that occur in a chronic wound and the most common types of wounds present in the elderly.

Invertebrate Models of Aging (March 28) Instructor: Meng Wang, Ph.D. I will present an overview of how invertebrate genetic models–Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Brewer’s Yeast), Caenorhabditis elegans (nematode), and Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly)–have contributed to our understanding the molecular genetics of aging. Emphasis will be placed on unique methods used in each model system and emergent importance of homologous mechanisms. 

Autophagy and Aging (March 30) Instructor: Tony Eissa, M.D. Autophagy is an evolutionary highly conserved process by which organelles and cellular proteins are encapsulated in double-membrane vesicles. The engulfed cytoplasmic material is then delivered to lysosomes for degradation or recycling. It is a highly regulated process responsible for the turnover of many proteins, mitochondria and damaged organelles. Autophagy also functions in diverse aspects of inflammation and immunity. This lecture will describe various aspects of mechanisms and functions of autophagy and the effect of aging on these processes.

Microbial Aging (April 4) Instructor: Christophe Herman, Ph.D. Bacteria multiple by binary fission and it has been assumed to proceed with a non-conservative dispersion of both undamaged and damaged constituents. This lecture will discuss the recent advance showing that bacteria are subject to aging, describe the consequence of aging on cellular physiology and the stress response associated to aging.

Role of Telomeres in Aging and Cancer (April 6) Instructor: Ergun Sahin, M.D., Ph.D. Telomeres are the repetitive ends of chromosomes and maintained by a specialized enzyme, called telomerase. Telomerase is absent in most human cells and has only insufficient activity in stem and progenitor cells, which ultimately leads to telomere shortening during aging. Telomere shortening is associated with age-related decline and the development of age-related disease. I will discuss the role of telomerase and telomere shortening in aging and age-related disease and emphasize the diverse cellular mechanism by which short telomeres affect cellular and organismal aging.

Lifestyle Therapy Interventions to Reverse Frailty in Obese Older Adults (April 11) Instructor: Dennis Villareal, M.D., Ph.D. Synopsis: Obesity in older adults is a major public health problem because it exacerbates the age-related decline in physical and metabolic function and causes frailty. Dr. Villareal will present results from his ongoing randomized controlled trials designed to define strategies to ameliorate the metabolic and physical complications associated with unhealthy lifestyles in older adults.

Cardiovascular Aging and Sarcopenia (April 13) Instructor: George Taffet, M.D. This lecture will review changes that occur with age in the heart and vascular tree. This will focus on aging changes independent of disease, but will look at how aging increases the probability of developing atherosclerotic disease. Information will relate rodent, primate and human data. Finally, skeletal muscle changes will be briefly discussed.

Presbycusis: Age-related hearing loss (April 18) Instructor: Fred Pereira, Ph.D. Anatomical, physiological and neurological mechanisms of hearing will be presented. Age-related changes in hearing, human and mouse models of hearing loss, and signaling pathways implicated in presbycusis will be discussed.

Age-related Neurodegenerative Diseases (April 25) Instructor: Ismael Al-Ramahi, Ph.D. The two major age-related neurodegenerative diseases, namely the Alzheimer’s diseases and Parkinson’s disease, will be the topic of discussion. The lecture will cover the genetic and biochemical basis of the disorders, animal model studies and current therapeutic approaches. 

Memory and Aging (April 27) Instructor: Mauro Costa-Mattioli, Ph.D. A newly formed memory remains in a dynamic or "labile" form for a short time after which the memory trace is either lost or stored and/or consolidated into the physical organization of the brain.  The labile state is called STM and persists for only seconds to minutes, whereas the consolidate state, LTM can last days, months and even a lifetime. We now know that making long-lasting memories is dependent on the ability of neurons to synthesize new proteins. I will discuss the different mechanisms by which translational control regulates long-lasting changes in synaptic strength, memory storage and its decline with the aging process.

Epigenetic Regulation of Invertebrate Aging (May 2) Instructor: Weiwei Dang, Ph.D. Epigenetics plays an essential role during development and is the basis of cellular differentiation and cell fate determination. Recent evidence suggests that epigenetic changes not only are occurring during aging but are regulating longevity and mediating lifespan extension through various signaling pathways. This lecture will discuss current knowledge of how aging is regulated by epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, histone modifications, and other forms of chromatin remodeling. 

Regulation of mammalian lifespan by diet, circadian clock, and epigenetic mechanisms (May 4) Instructor: Zheng Sun, Ph.D. You are what you eat, and when you eat. Dietary factors and circadian eating behavior has huge impact on aging process. On one hand, calorie restriction is the most widely accepted procedure that prolongs lifespan. On the hand, ageing is associated with altered circadian behavior and epigenomic changes. The molecular circadian clock is composed of a set of transcription factors that regulate gene expression through epigenomic mechanisms. This lecture will discuss how dietary factors and the circadian clock modulates aging and aging-related metabolic changes at the epigenomic level.

The exam will be distributed on May 4 and will be due before midnight on May 7.