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Vol. LX, No. 3
February 8, 2008

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‘From Worms to Mammals’
Kenyon Presents Wednesday Afternoon Lecture, Feb. 20

Dr. Cynthia Kenyon will present “From Worms to Mammals: Genes that Control the Rate of Aging” at the WALS at 3 p.m. on Feb. 20.

Dr. Cynthia Kenyon will present “From Worms to Mammals: Genes that Control the Rate of Aging” at the WALS at 3 p.m. on Feb. 20.

Who would have thought that the lowly worm would be the one to show the world that the aging process, like everything else in biology, is under exquisite regulation? That’s what Dr. Cynthia Kenyon and her laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco, demonstrated in 1993 when they doubled the lifespan of the small roundworm C. elegans by changing a single gene. Kenyon’s discovery set off an intensive study of the molecular biology of aging. Her findings have led to the discovery that an evolutionarily conserved hormone signaling system controls aging in other organisms, including mammals.

Kenyon will present “From Worms to Mammals: Genes that Control the Rate of Aging” at the NIH Director’s Wednesday Afternoon Lecture at 3 p.m. on Feb. 20 in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10. The director of the Hillblom Center for the Biology of Aging and the American Cancer Society research professor of biochemistry and biophysics, Kenyon has been associated with UCSF since 1986.

By manipulating genes and cells, her laboratory has been able to extend the lifespan and period of youthfulness of healthy, active C. elegans by six times. They found that signals from the reproductive system and sensory neurons influence the lifespan of C. elegans and these processes may be evolutionarily conserved.

These signals act, at least in part, to control the expression of a wide variety of subordinate genes, including antioxidant, stress response, antimicrobial and novel genes, whose activities act in a cumulative fashion to determine the lifespan of the animal. Some of these subordinate genes can also influence the progression of age-related disease.

In 1976, Kenyon graduated as valedictorian in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Georgia. She received her Ph.D. from MIT in 1981, where, in Graham Walker’s laboratory, she was the first to look for genes on the basis of their activity profiles, discovering that DNA damaging agents activate a battery of DNA repair genes in E. coli. Pursuing postdoctoral work with Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, U.K., Kenyon studied the development of C. elegans.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Paris. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the King Faisal Prize for Medicine, the American Association of Medical Colleges Award for Distinguished Research, the Ilse and Helmut Wachter Award for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, the La Fondation IPSEN Prize and the Inspire Award from the AARP.

Following Kenyon’s presentation, there will be a reception for attendees. The National Institute on Aging is hosting the event. NIHRecord Icon

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