Lectures on aging set

BAR HARBOR — The MDI Biological Laboratory will offer three lectures for the public on the science of aging as part of its new course on aging. The presenters, all leaders in the field of aging research, will address questions such as why do we age, what mechanisms regulate aging on a cellular level and can youthfulness be extended through genetic manipulation?

The course, “Comparative and Experimental Approaches to Aging Biology Research,” addresses 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 lectures, which are free, will be held at the institution’s Maren Auditorium at 7 p.m.

The first is the Cserr Lecture on Tuesday, June 21: “Cellular Recycling in Aging and Disease: The Importance of Taking Out the Trash” by Malene Hansen, associate professor at Sanford-Burnham-Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Aging is greatly influenced by quality-control processes that keep the materials inside our cells in proper shape and function. One of these processes is called autophagy, which means “self-eating.” This cellular recycling process digests damaged components to provide new and better parts. Autophagy plays important roles in many age-related diseases and has been directly linked to aging.

The Kinter Lecture on Thursday, June 30, is “Living to be 150: How Soon? How Desirable?” by Steven N. Austad, professor and chair of the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

No one in human history has been documented to be older than 122. Yet progress in prolonging the life and health of laboratory animals has raised the prospect that treatments may soon be available that would allow someone to live to be 150.

Austad will discuss several questions including What are these life-extending treatments? How solid is the evidence that they slow aging? How soon will we know something about their impact on health? What would be the social and environmental impact and what are the ethical concerns?

The Davis Lecture on Friday, July 1, is “Quality Control in Our Cells: Hero or Culprit in Aging and Disease?” by Richard I. Morimoto, the Bill and Gayle Cook professor of molecular biosciences at Northwestern University.

We are increasingly preoccupied with health and longevity. But increased lifespan comes with increased risk for dementia, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and other age-related degenerative diseases. The accumulation of damaged proteins that interfere with cellular function over the course of time is a common feature of aging and age-related diseases. Morimoto will examine how this quality-control machinery deals with molecular clutter, the effects of aging on these processes and whether it’s possible to reset the cellular machinery to restore or prevent molecular damage.

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