Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Huffington Center on Aging

2008 Recipient

Modulation of aging and physiology by perceptual systems

Dr. Pletcher received the award for his scientific contributions to the field of aging, including his observations on the impact of dietary restriction on lifespan in Drosophila and on the role of olfaction in longevity.

Dr. Pletcher's laboratory has shown that diet composition, both alone and in combination with overall caloric intake, modulates lifespan. Specifically, a high sugar diet increases appetite/consumption and fat deposition in flies. These findings challenge to the traditional belief that, with respect to mechanisms of aging, the most important aspect of the diet is its energetic (i.e., caloric) content.

Dr. Pletcher has also shown that exposure to specific odorants is sufficient to modulate longevity and physiology. Dr. Pletcher and his group demonstrated that olfaction specifically, the smell of food plays an important role in the most well-known manipulation that enhances longevity, dietary restriction. This work has established an entirely new paradigm for understanding neural regulation of lifespan extension.

Dr. Pletcher's nomination was based on the following publications:

Libert S, Zwiener J, Chu X, Vanvoorhies W, Roman G, Pletcher SD. Regulation of Drosophila life span by olfaction and food-derived odors. Science 2007 Feb 23;315(5815):1133-7. 

Libert S, Pletcher SD. Modulation of longevity by environmental sensing. Cell 2007 Dec 28;131(7):1231-4. 

Skorupa DA, Dervisefendic A, Zwiener J, Pletcher SD. Dietary composition specifies consumption, obesity, and lifespan in Drosophila melanogaster. Aging Cell 2008 Aug;7(4):478-90.