New Center on Biology of Aging

November 7, 1995

ANN ARBOR—The National Institute on Aging has awarded a grant creating a Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging at the University of Michigan Institute of Gerontology (IoG).

The major goals of the new center are to facilitate and stimulate ongoing and new research in the molecular and cellular biology of aging.

The U-M group is one of only three such centers in the nation. The others are located at the University of Washington and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The U-M group will focus on four research themes: musculoskeletal frailty, signal transduction (cell to cell communication), protein structure and function, and control of gene expression. These research themes reflect the complexity of the biology of aging and represent a multi-level approach, according to John A. Faulkner, center director. ” First examining aging on the molecular and cellular level,” says Faulkner, ” the research then advances to studies at the level of tissues, and finally to the function of the total organism.”

One noteworthy component of the center’s efforts will be its development of mutant and transgenic rodents for gerontological studies. Scientists will produce mice of different genotypes to look at the aging process and age-related physiological changes that, specifically, may reveal information on extended life span, breast cancer, gene activity in late life, and the effects of aging on muscle cells and T-lymphocyte cells.

The center will also specialize in developing new cell imaging technology, providing advice and help to researchers on digital imaging, in particular.

According to IoG Director Richard C. Adelman, who will administer the center’s development and enrichment core, the center will further help to develop junior faculty in the basic biology of aging, create an optimum academic and research environment for trainees, and enhance participation by underrepresented minorities.

With 21 basic scientists from 15 different disciplines and six different colleges, the U-M Shock Center has the kind of diversity that ” creates the critical mass of scientists necessary for innovative interactions and significant progress,” says Faulkner.

Designed to stimulate research into the basic biological processes of aging and, ultimately, to yield breakthroughs in understanding the course of normal aging and the diseases and conditions that affect older people, the newly created centers are named for Nathan Shock, the first scientific director of the NIA and a pioneer in aging research.

Richard C. Adelman