Animals have evolved a dramatic diversity of aging rates with lifespans ranging from two years to 200 years. This natural diversity of lifespan can be exploited to understand the mechanisms of longevity and develop anti-aging interventions. 

Our goal is to identify mechanisms that allow such exceptionally long-lived animals to live long and healthy lives and then use these mechanisms to benefit human health. 

Naked mole rat is the longest-lived rodent with the maximum lifespan of 32 years. We discovered that the mechanism of longevity and cancer resistance in the naked mole rat mediated by high molecular weight hyaluronan. 

I will discuss the mouse model we generated that mimics the naked mole rat and shows increased healthspan and lifespan. I will also describe the role of SIRT6 in mediating longevity across mammals and in human centenarians by improving DNA repair and silencing transposable elements.

Professor Vera Gorbunova

Professor Vera Gorbunova.
Professor Vera Gorbunova.

Vera Gorbunova is an endowed Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester and a co-director of the Rochester Aging Research Center. Her research is focused on understanding the mechanisms of longevity and genome stability and on the studies of exceptionally long-lived mammals. 

Professor Gorbunova earned her B.Sc. degrees at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and her Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. She pioneered comparative biology approach to study aging and identified rules that control evolution of tumor suppressor mechanisms depending on the species lifespan and body mass. Professor Gorbunova also investigates the role of Sirtuin proteins in maintaining genome stability. More recently the focus of her research has been on the longest-lived rodent species the naked mole rats and the blind mole rat. 

Professor Gorbunova identified high molecular weight hyaluronan as the key mediator of cancer-resistance in the naked mole rat. Her work received awards of from the Ellison Medical Foundation, the Glenn Foundation, American Federation for Aging Research, and from the National Institutes of Health. Her work was awarded the Cozzarelli Prize from PNAS, prize for research on aging from ADPS/Alianz, France, Prince Hitachi Prize in Comparative Oncology, Japan, and Davey prize from Wilmot Cancer Center.

Seminar host: Professor Matt Sweet

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