Seminar in Biological Mechanisms of Aging and Cancer
There is an intriguing and seemingly paradoxical relationship between aging and cancer. On one hand, cancer can be thought of as a disease of aging, since its incidence increases dramatically with age. On the other hand, while aging is characterized by decreasing fitness and survival, cancer cells themselves are seemingly immortal, dividing infinitely without control. Scientists who study aging have come to believe that many aspects of the aging process are actually manifestations of the body's attempt to prevent cancer. One of the challenges of aging research is to understand this complicated relationship between aging and cancer so that we can potentially identify and separate the mechanisms for preventing cancer from the mechanisms causing the detrimental features aging, thereby extending the quality and length of human life.
The fields of aging and cancer research are both enormously broad and complicated. This learning project will be focused on the research defining the molecular mechanisms underlying aging, but as you will see, many of the subjects of study (cell signalling pathways, cell cycle machinery, DNA repair enzymes, transcription factors) are the same ones known to be involved in carcinogenesis.
Hallmarks of Aging
This important review article by López-Otín et al., published in 2013, identified the following nine common attributes of the cells in aging organisms, several of which are explained in the Hallmarks of Aging Wikipedia page.
Listed below are the hallmarks discussed in the review article. Each hallmark links to a summary written by our students.
- Genomic Instability (nuclear architecture)
- Genomic Instability (mitochondrial DNA)
- Telomere Attrition
- Epigenetic Alterations
- Loss of Proteostasis
- Deregulated Nutrient Sensing
- Mitochondrial Dysfunction
- Cell senescence
- Stem cell exhaustion
- Altered intercellular communication
In this class we will be presenting manuscripts that are related to the hallmarks of aging listed above. To practice reading primary literature and presenting in a journal club style we read and discussed the manuscript below.
Heintz C, Doktor TK, Lanjuin A, Escoubas CC, Zhang Y, Weir HJ, Dutta S,Silva-García CG, Bruun GH, Morantte I, Hoxhaj G, Manning BD, Andresen BS, MairWB. Splicing factor 1 modulates dietary restriction and TORC1 pathway longevity in C. elegans. Nature. 2017 Jan 5;541(7635):102-106.
Click on the link below to see a graphical abstract and summaries of the figures in this manuscript.