Viruses Treatment Articles

Research Scientists At Einsten Receive $10 Million NIH Grant To Focus On Processes For Healthy Aging

March 31, 2017

Four Albert Einstein College of Medicine faculty members were awarded a five-year, $10-million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study autophagy - a fundamental cell process that may hold the key to aging.

Autophagy (which literally means "self-eating") refers to several surveillance systems that all cells rely on to find, digest, and recycle molecules within them that have become damaged. This cellular recycling both "cleans up" the cell and provides it with energy, since digested products can be used as fuel. Many studies have documented that autophagy becomes less efficient with age, allowing protein and other cellular components to gradually accumulate inside cells and, almost certainly, interfere with normal cell function.

The Einstein consortium is led by Ana Maria Cuervo, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of developmental & molecular biology, of anatomy & structural biology, and of medicine at Einstein and one of the world's leading experts on autophagy. With the help of the NIH grant, Dr. Cuervo and her colleagues will test their hypothesis that impaired autophagy may explain the decline in organ function, weakened immunity, and other functional losses associated with aging. More specifically, the researchers will: look at the role of two different types of autophagy in liver and brain function as well as immunity, under normal and stressful conditions

analyze how these two types of autophagy change as the liver, brain, and immune system age

determine how changes in autophagy that occur with age contribute to the aging of the entire organism, to the gradual deterioration of cognitive function, to the failure with age of two essential immune functions (antigen processing and presentation, and T helper cell activation and tolerance), and to abnormalities in lipid metabolism "These studies will involve the cooperation of all four of us on the Einstein faculty who have jointly received this NIH grant," says Dr. Cuervo. The other three members of the Einstein consortium are Laura Santambrogio, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology; Fernando Macian-Juan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology; and Mark J. Czaja, M.D., professor of medicine.

"We're hopeful that this research project will lead to fundamental insights that will help us understand, treat or even prevent the metabolic alterations and decline in cognitive and immune function that affect us as we age," says Dr. Cuervo. "Strategies that can keep our cells' autophagic pathways operating efficiently as we get older could help us to enjoy healthier lives well into old age."

###

The Einstein researchers have set up a website that describes their research effort in more detail. The URL is aecom.yu.edu/cuervo/_private/defaultPPG.htm.

About Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University

Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University is one of the nation's premier centers for research, medical education and clinical investigation. It is the home to some 2,000 faculty members, 750 M.D. students, 350 Ph.D. students (including 125 in combined M.D./Ph.D. programs) and 380 postdoctoral investigators. Last year, Einstein received more than $130 million in support from the NIH. This includes the funding of major research centers at Einstein in diabetes, cancer, liver disease, and AIDS. Other areas where the College of Medicine is concentrating its efforts include developmental brain research, neuroscience, cardiac disease, and initiatives to reduce and eliminate ethnic and racial health disparities. Through its extensive affiliation network involving five hospital centers in the Bronx, Manhattan and Long Island - which includes Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Einstein - the College runs one of the largest post-graduate medical training program in the United States, offering approximately 150 residency programs to more than 2,500 physicians in training. For more information, please visit aecom.yu.edu

Contact: Deirdre Branley
Albert Einstein College of Medicine