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Salk Lands $3M for Glenn Center for Aging Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Salk Institute has received a $3 million donation from the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research to fund its Glenn Center for Aging Research, which engages scientists from 11 of Salk's labs in studies of aging-related diseases and the normal processes of aging.

The center's research activities focus on using genetic analysis, stem cell biology, and metabolism studies to investigate aging from three perspectives: whole systems biology, organ biology, and cellular aging. Salk said the center will use the donation to fund further research into the biology of normal aging, with the aim of developing interventions to delay its onset and progression.

The center is headed by two professors from Salk's Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, Jan Karlseder and Martin Hetzer.

Karlseder's research has looked at the role of telomeres in the aging process in mammals, specifically how they are involved in premature aging diseases, in DNA damage, and how they are processed during the cell cycle.

"A better understanding of telomere shortening will lead to an ability to influence the aging process and as a result to the restriction of cancer cell growth," Karlseder said in a statement.

Hetzer's lab is using emerging technologies to study how different organs are maintained and to identify the decline of heart and brain function. They are exploring the roles of extremely long-lived proteins, nuclear membrane loss and the nuclear pore complex in aging, and nuclear membrane function and chromatin organization. They also hope to better understand developmental gene expression and potentially control the expression of disease-associated genes.

"We hypothesize that the failure to maintain proper levels and functional integrity of long-lived proteins in non-proliferative cells could be a major contributor to age-related changes in cell and tissue function," said Hetzer. "If successful, our studies hold the promise of revealing new principles of protein homeostasis and age-related loss of cell function, both during 'normal' aging and in age-related disease."

The Glenn Foundation provided an initial $5 million in 2009 to launch the aging research center at the Salk Institute. The center also is a member of the Glenn Consortium for Research in Aging, which includes partners at Harvard Medical School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, and the Stanford School of Medicine.