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Aging – Fate or Disease?

Most diseases of humans are related to the narrowing of blood vessels that nourish various organs. Indeed, in the brain this process causes stroke and dementia, in the kidney hypertension and renal failure and in the heart angina pectoris or infarction. Although many factors that lead to this most common disease such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes have been delineated, it became apparent that the most important driver is aging of blood vessels.

Project Deputy Dr. Giovanni Camici (center) with his research group.

Recently, we found that specific genes mediate the aging process of the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium. Two genes with the scientific definition “p66shc, JNK“ and “jun-D” could be identified to regulate the function of organelles of cells such as the mitochondria and regulate the signal transduction within the cells. In this capacity they also mediate oxidative stress within the cells, a process recognized as a central mediator of aging. Indeed, deletion of such genes prolongs life span in animals up to 30% and protects them largely from aging. The further characterization of these mechanisms and their regulation will lead to novel strategies in the treatment of these conditions.

Project Leader: Giovanni Camici, PhD