Bioinformatics and Anti-Aging Research

I ran across an interesting press release from the University of Rochester today. They are touting a system for massive parallel testing of compounds and genetic modifications on yeast:

Professor David Goldfarb, of the University of Rochester's Department of Biology, has recently developed high through-put screening technologies that may allow discovery of genes and compounds that increase the lifespan of fungi, protozoa, plants, and animals. This set of technologies has potential applications in medicine, agriculture and industry, and is the subject of a pending patent application.

Using genetically engineered strains of brewer's yeast, Professor Goldfarb and his colleagues have formulated various methods, materials, and lab kits that may be used to identify genes and small compounds that increase the lifespan of organisms. Previous research has shown that key genetic mechanisms that control the aging and lifespan of yeasts are reasonably well conserved in humans. Therefore, Goldfarb's technology may be able to identify genes that normally function to control lifespan in yeast, and which could have analogous effects in higher plants and animals.

This innovation might also be used to quickly screen large chemical libraries to determine their effects on longevity in brewer's yeast. The advantage of this technology is that it may allow companies to perform large-scale screening of compounds that affect aging by measuring a simple read-out, such as optical density.

As reported in the June 4, 2004 edition of the Chicago Sun Times, researchers emphasize that the benefits of anti-aging genetic technology not only have the potential to keep people alive for longer periods of time, but also may help prevent diseases of aging like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Technology such as Professor Goldfarb's may provide a valuable tool to efficiently gain further insight into the mysteries of aging and age-related diseases.

These sorts of innovations in parallel testing have made the advances of recent years possible in many other fields of medical research. Why not healthy life extension?

Comments

In the last issue of Wired there's an article about a company called CombinatoRx, whose chief technology is a robotics system that can quickly try out combinations of FDA-approved drugs to seek out synergies for fighting various diseases. I'd like to see these two ideas go together, to have CombinatoRx's robot technology to test out combinations against this special brewer's yeast to possibly find a combination of existing drugs that helps!

Posted by: tomo at July 22nd, 2004 7:43 PM

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