A new grant will help researchers at Baylor College of Medicine understand the role of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes, in aging.
Dr. Ergun Sahin, assistant professor at the Huffington Center on Aging and in the department of molecular physiology and biophysics at BCM, has received a $200,000 grant for two years from the Ted Nash Long Life Foundation, a nonprofit based in Waco committed to funding research to improve the length and quality of life for future generations.
Loss of telomeres
"Studies in patients with severe telomere shortening syndromes and in animal models have demonstrated the importance of adequate telomere length for normal lifespan and health," said Sahin. "It is believed that aging occurs, at least in part, due to continuous loss of telomeres across different organs."
Sahin and colleagues will study how short telomeres impact the aging process, specifically what mechanisms are activated in cells with short telomeres that lead to cellular and organismal aging. They hope to be able to understand what pathways are impacted by short telomeres to then manipulate the process to prevent or delay partial decline in aging.
Development of health issues
"Once we have identified the molecules and pathways that are altered in response to short telomeres, we can specifically target and manipulate these molecules to prevent cellular aging," said Sahin.
This study will focus on the connection between short telomeres, metabolism and metabolic disease. Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are common manifestations of aging, but it is not clear now aging predisposes the development of these health issues, Sahin said.
His group will use genetic mouse models to manipulate the short telomere state and then reverse it. He will also study cells derived from patients who have telomerase mutations and compare to patients who age at a normal rate.