Two University of Rochester biologists, associate professors Vera Gorbunova and Heinrich Jasper, have won Glenn Awards for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging.
The $60,000 awards given by the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research are unsolicited, meaning that the researchers who win them do not apply directly, but are recommended by colleagues in their fields. A panel of judges chooses scientists that they believe are doing groundbreaking work that has the potential to shed light on the biological process of aging, and could benefit from an infusion of unexpected funding.
Jasper studies the role of stem cells in aging. Using fruit flies as a model organism, he hopes to address questions such as how stem cell function declines in aging animals, whether improving stem cell maintenance can extend lifespan, and how signaling mechanisms that govern metabolic adaptation and stress responses influence stem cell aging and lifespan.
Gorbunova studies long-lived and short-lived species of rodents to identify factors that determine longevity. She works with long-lived rodents such as the grey squirrel, the beaver, and the naked mole-rat, comparing various biological traits including genome stability and qualities of telomeres. A recent paper authored by her and Assistant Prof. Andrei Seluanov and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences won the two researchers the Academy's 2009 Cozzarelli Prize. In the paper, the researchers show how naked mole-rats – extremely long-lived rodents with lifespans of up to 30 years – are shielded from developing cancer.