Tejoni Johnson


Finding the Fountain of Youth by Uncovering the Molecular Mechanisms Controlling Aging

As we age, our bodies deteriorate and become more susceptible to age related diseases such as, neurodegenerative disorders, heart disease, and cancer. This research attempts to uncover the molecular mechanisms behind this deterioration using two different models of lifespan extension in the fruit fly, Diapause and drug induced. Diapause is a protective “program” that flies initiate during unfavorable winter conditions, allowing them to survive longer in order to reproduce in more favorable conditions. Using a fully sequenced population of flies, known as the Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP), we were able to conduct a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) on this complex trait, mapping any genetic variants to our phenotype. This study produced 69 genetic candidates, 5 of which we’ll perform expression analysis via quantitative polymerized chain reaction (qPCR). Michael Petrascheck’s Lab at the Scripps Institute in San Diego previously identified several small molecule drugs which inhibited aging in the nematode, C. elegans. In a collaborative effort, we are testing four of these drugs to examine if they have the same affect in the fly, and will perform another GWAS using the data obtained. Comparing our initial GWAS hits to those produced by the drug induced lifespan extension, we hope to identify novel players shared between the two models that may be involved in the complicated progression of aging. Gaining more knowledge of the aging process could potentially help us understand how to better combat aging and the diseases associated with it.

UC Santa Barbara Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships UCSB California NanoSystems Institute