Is ageing a disease? It is clear that chronological, time-dependent ageing is unstoppable. However, it is also the fact that the rate of ageing is partly controlled under genetic mechanisms, and can be manipulated and delayed. The most ambitious goal of our work is to develop a cure for ageing similar to the treatment for diseases. Our focus is finding a means of ensuring healthy ageing.
Ageing is, at least in part, a genetically controlled biological process. This is based on the observations that genetic alterations can modulate the rate of ageing and the length of lifespan in diverse animal species. Our research aims to better understand ageing and conversely, longevity. We are working to uncover novel genetic factors and pathways that have a crucial role in lifespan determination in order to answer the key question of what allows for longevity.
We are using a tiny animal called the nematode “C. elgans” to understand what makes longevity at the molecular level. This animal provides an ideal system for studying ageing because of its short lifespan of 2-3 weeks, highly conserved genetic elements and powerful genetic approaches. We hope this can be applied to human ageing in the future.
Finding a Cure
More than 20% of the world’s population will be over the age of 60 years by 2050. In this global ageing population, it is incredibly important and we understand the biology of ageing and work to discover therapeutics to ensure healthy ageing.
We have already found several crucial microRNAs that have roles in stress survival and dietary restriction-mediated longevity. Our study will reveal how they function to modulate stress response and lifespan regulation at the molecular level, and will provide conserved longevity features.
We are performing multidisciplinary approaches, including extensive genetics, bioinformatics and metabolomics, to reveal their biological functions. It is hoped that as our understanding of ageing increases, we can work towards ensuring every human being can live a full and healthy life.
Dr Masaomi Kato, Group Leader
Masaomi Kato received his PhD from National Institute of Genetics in Japan in 2005 for the study of epigenetic regulation of transposons in a model plant Arabidopsis. He then shifted his research field to the nematode C. elegans and studied the microRNA biology in his postdoctoral training at Yale University in the US. He is appointed as a group leader in Centenary Institute in the mid of 2012 and currently focusing on the ageing research, including microRNAs and novel FOXO modulators, using C. elegans as a model organism.