Aging Research--Thoughts on the Present, Future, and Cellular Markers

An Interview with Dr. Tomas Prolla

Dr. Tomas A. Prolla, an Assistant Professor at the Departments of Genetics & Medical Genetics of the University of Wisconsin (Madison, USA), shares his thoughts on the field of "cellular markers for aging" and the implications of this research on the future of medicine and our society. Dr. Prolla's research focuses on the age-related changes in gene expression and the extent to which caloric restriction can offset these changes. Last year, Dr. Prolla and Dr. Richard Weindruch published a study identifying several genes involved in aging of mouse skeletal muscle.1 Last March, Dr. Richard Lerner and Dr. Peter Schultz of The Scripps Research Institute (La Jolla, USA) published a study identifying genes involved in aging of human fibroblasts.2

Q: A recent batch of studies has used microarrays to provide a snapshot of the gene changes that occur with aging. These have included your study using mouse skeletal muscle and the recent Scripps study using aging fibroblasts. What is the significance of this work? Have we finally found the much sought after cellular markers for aging? Has this not been one of the Holly Grails of Aging research?

A: "Our findings suggest that DNA microarrays can be used to identify hundreds of biomarkers of aging on a tissue-specific basis.