Competition Aims to Radically Increase Healthy Lifespan in Mice
Renowned epigenetics expert Dr. Craig A. Cooney of The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences announced today that he is entering the competition to win the Methuselah Mouse Prize (Mprize). The Mprize, a scientific research prize aimed at encouraging scientists to find a way to reverse the aging process, is a primary activity of the Methuselah Foundation. The Mprize fund continues to grow and currently stands at more than $3 Million. Prizes will be awarded to research groups that can most successfully extend the lifespan of laboratory mice.
“Age-related diseases cause people to die much younger than they should,” said Dr. Cooney, “and from my research I foresee the possibility of slowing down or even curing these diseases. The Mprize is a great way to raise public awareness that the degeneration of aging is not inevitable — I am looking forward to joining this effort.”
Dr. Cooney studies DNA methylation, a part of the superstructure (“epigenetics”) of the DNA code through which cells prevent specific genes from being inappropriately turned on. This epigenetic “silencing” of genes allows the body to specialize the function of its cells, so that a given cell uses only that fraction of the total genetic library of the entire body that is appropriate to its function in the body. For example, in order to play their role in the body, liver cells need access to the genes for detoxification of alcohol, but not to other genes needed for the unique functions of lung, heart, or kidney cells. Abnormal DNA methylation patterns are associated with many diseases — most notably cancer, in which so-called “tumor suppressor” genes are often inappropriately silenced. In his lab, Dr. Cooney studies how the methylation pattern of DNA can be changed by drugs and nutrients, and how this affects gene expression, metabolism, and possibly lifespan.
Dr. Cooney and his group are using a novel approach to studying aging in mice. Unlike most studies to date, Dr. Cooney’s group treats female mice before they give birth, instead of treating only the progeny. In this way, the effect of treatment of the pregnant mother on her offsprings’ lifespan can be measured. This important work is being supported by a $5 Million National Institute of Aging Grant.
Methuselah Foundation co-founder, David Gobel, commented, “We’re excited to welcome Dr. Cooney as a serious and well-funded participant in the Mprize competition.” Dr. Aubrey de Grey, the Methuselah Foundation’s Chairman and Chief Science Officer, said about Cooney’s work, “I believe that Dr. Cooney’s approach will contribute significantly to the growing body of research, which could realize extended healthy human lifespans in this generation.”
About Dr. Craig Cooney
Craig Cooney, Ph.D. obtained his Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis. He proposed the basis of his current work, that nutrients in and above the normal range can change DNA methylation, in 1993. Cooney is an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
About the Methuselah Foundation
The Methuselah Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to accelerating the development of foreseeable, science-based therapies to combat aging. Its main activities are the funding of SENS research, and the Methuselah Mouse Prize, which is being offered to the scientific research teams that significantly extend the lifespan of middle-aged laboratory mice. Further details of the Methuselah Foundation can be found at: http://www.methuselahfoundation.org or http://www.Mprize.org