BAR HARBOR, MAINE – Why do we age? What are the mechanisms that regulate aging on a cellular level? Is it possible to extend youthfulness through genetic manipulation?
These are some of the tantalizing questions that will be the subject of a new signature course at the MDI Biological Laboratory, in Bar Harbor, Maine, that will address two of the most fundamental issues related to aging: can we strengthen our cellular systems to make them more resistant to aging, and can we identify ways to regenerate tissues that have already been damaged?
The course, entitled “Comparative and Experimental Approaches to Aging Biology Research,” will bring together an international group of 20 early career scientists with more than 20 leading experts in the field of aging. They will study the molecular mechanisms of aging across a variety of species using the latest laboratory techniques and technologies, including gene splicing and editing.
The course, which will be held June 19 through July 3, will focus on current paradigms of aging research, with emphasis on the advantages of using various animal models to study mechanisms relevant to the biology of human aging. Tuitions for the course will be offset in part by a grant from the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, whose mission is to extend the healthy, productive years of life through research.
“With this course, the MDI Biological Laboratory is filling a need in the science community for a course on aging research,” said Kevin Strange, Ph.D., MDI Biological Laboratory president. “Our focus on the biology of aging and tissue regeneration, along with our extensive experience with diverse animal models, our expertise in cutting-edge laboratory techniques and a tradition in research training going back more than 100 years make us the ideal institution to lead this course.”
The aging course comes at a critical time in terms of improving human health. In recent years, research in animal models has identified some of the mechanisms that control aging in the cell, opening the door to the development of therapies that can prolong healthy lifespan by delaying the onset of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease. Such therapies also hold the potential to address the skyrocketing financial burden of caring for an aging population.
“In contrast to the traditional ‘one disease, one drug’ approach, the development of anti-aging drugs that extend healthy lifespan and boost life expectancy holds the promise of revolutionizing the practice of medicine,” said Aric Rogers, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the MDI Biological Laboratory and director of the aging course. “This is a very exciting time to be involved in aging research: science is on the cusp of developing a plethora of new drugs for the treatment of aging and age-related conditions.”
In addition to providing hands-on research opportunities, the course will also provide opportunities for students and lecturers to trade notes on where they are with their research, so, as Rogers puts it, “they aren’t reinventing the wheel.” The course is also expected to raise the MDI Biological Laboratory’s profile in the field of aging research by introducing scientists from all over the globe to the important work on aging and regeneration that is being conducted at the institution.
Finally, it will provide an opportunity for the public to learn about the latest developments in aging research in lectures by three leading experts. For more information on the public lectures, which will be held on the evenings of June 21, June 30 and July 1, please visit mdibl.org/events/.