What we can learn about aging, from worms

Princeton University Professor Coleen Murphy

Princeton University Professor Coleen Murphy, whose pioneering research to identify genes that regulate the length of an animal’s reproductive span may yield clues to age-related changes in human fertility and memory, will be the featured speaker at the Ruth Ann and Nathan Perlmutter Science Forum at Brandeis on March 9.

Murphy, an assistant professor in Princeton’s Department of Molecular Biology, will deliver a lecture, “Slowing the Ticking Clock: What we can learn about aging and memory from C. elegans,” at 4 p.m. in Gerstenzang 121. A reception with refreshments is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

The Departments of Biochemistry and Biology, and the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, are coordinating the joint biology/biochemistry seminar. Professor Suzanne Paradis is serving as host.

Murphy's lab at Princeton uses C. elegans — a type of roundworm — to study aging by identifying the genes that affect lifespan and reproductive span. Roundworms make good research subjects because of their short lifespan (two to three weeks), accessible genetics and fully sequenced genome. The genes that regulate lifespan and reproductive span in roundworms are similar to those in mammals, making the lab's findings relevant for humans.

“We are honored to have Professor Murphy speak at the Ruth Ann and Nathan Perlmutter Science Forum,” Paradis said. “Her research is helping us gain a greater understanding of the mechanisms underlying age-related changes to fertility and memory.”

Ruth Ann Perlmutter has been a longtime supporter of Brandeis University. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver and a master’s in sociology from Wayne State University in Detroit. She is an accomplished sculptor and painter, and lives in Prescott, Ariz.

In 1969, her husband, Nathan, became vice president of development at Brandeis during the presidency of Morris Abram. He left Brandeis to serve as national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Together the Perlmutters were leaders in the interfaith movement and civil rights debates, work for which Nathan Perlmutter received the Presidential Medal of Freedom shortly before his death in 1987.

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