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Einstein researchers share $9 million grant to find anti-aging therapies

Drug Week

10-27-17

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Drug Week -- BRONX, NY -- Scientists now believe that the Fountain of Youth flows from our genes, or at least from the genes of people who live healthy lives to age 100 or later. To discover what's special about the genes of these centenarians -- and apply that knowledge to extend the healthy lives of the rest of us--the National Institutes of Health has awarded researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, part of Montefiore Medicine, and the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) a five-year, $9 million grant (see also Albert Einstein College of Medicine).

"Aging is arguably the key risk factor for the most common diseases that afflict us, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, most types of cancer and Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases," says Jan Vijg, Ph.D., professor and chair of genetics and the Lola and Saul Kramer Chair in Molecular Genetics at Einstein and the study's principal investigator.

Rather than study age-related diseases, says Dr. Vijg, "We're focusing on the genetic differences between healthy centenarians and people with no family history of extreme longevity, looking for rare genetic variants that account for the centenarians' longevity. Once we pinpoint the beneficial effects that these novel gene variants are causing, we'll be in a position to develop drugs that mimic those effects and, ideally, help people attain longer, healthier lifespans."

The first of the three projects funded by the grant will be led by Yousin Suh, Ph.D., professor of genetics, of ophthalmology & visual sciences and of medicine at Einstein. She and colleagues will analyze the entire genomes (approximately 20,000 genes) of 700 healthy centenarians and compare them with the genomes of 800 individuals (average age 70) with no family history of extreme longevity. The researchers will look for gene variants that are enriched in the centenarian genome but rare or absent in the genomes of the "ordinary" individuals. The scientists will check to see whether those candidate longevity genes are also present in the genomes of other centenarians being studied in the US and Europe.

Novel gene variants found in the first project will then be introduced into the genomes of mice, to evaluate whether the gene variants yield benefits in animals that are relevant for late-life human health. Knowledge gained from finding "longevity variants" in people and validating them in animals will culminate in the third project: developing and testing small molecules aimed at duplicating the positive physiological effects produced by the longevity gene variants.

Keywords for this news article include: Pharmaceuticals, Therapy, Genetics, Risk and Prevention, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

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