UW News

April 6, 2006

Speaker Kenyon discovered hormones that control aging

Dr. Cynthia Kenyon, known for her basic research on how the aging process is controlled, will give the next Science in Medicine Lecture at noon on Thursday, April 20, in Hogness Auditorium at the Health Sciences Center.

The presentation is open to everyone.

Kenyon, who is an American Cancer Society professor and director of the Hillblom Center for the Biology of Aging at the University of California, San Francisco, will speak on From Worms to Mammals: A Regulatory Network that Controls the Aging Process.

She is best known for her discovery that the lifespan of the roundworm C. elegans is controlled by hormones that are equivalent to human insulin and IGF (insulin growth factor)-1 receptors. This original work led to the discovery that mammalian aging is also regulated by the insulin and IGF-1 pathway.

By working with mice bred to have mutations in these pathways, she has been able to show that some are resistant to certain age-related diseases.

In the roundworms, mutations in the insulin/IGF-1 pathway have delayed the onset of protein aggregation in the worm model of Huntington’s disease. Long-lived mice with reduced IGF-1 levels show resistance to some common carcinogens.

By altering two hormone systems in the same animal, Kenyon’s laboratory has been able to extend lifespans as much as six-fold.

She is pursuing research that would point to ways in which many age-related diseases might be prevented or delayed for years by altering the aging process itself.

Kenyon, a professor in UCSF’s Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981.

From 1982 to 1986, she did postdoctoral work at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.

Kenyon joined the UCSF faculty in 1986. She has received numerous awards and scientific prizes for her work, and has been elected a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. She was president of the Genetics Society of America in 2003.

The Science in Medicine Lecture will be simulcast to Harborview’s Research & Training Auditorium and the Seattle VA, room 518 in Building 1.