Friday Evening Lecture Series – Joshua Lederberg Lecture – “Genes for Lifespan”

Date(s) - 08/09/2013
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Lillie Auditorium

Friday Evening Lecture SeriesJoshua Lederberg Lecture – “Genes for Lifespan”
Cynthia J. Kenyon, University of California, San Francisco
August 9, 2013, 8:00 PM, Lillie Auditorium

Introduction by Dr. Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief, The FASEB Journal, Director Biotechnology Study Center, Research Professor of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine

cynthia_kenyonLecture Abstract:
Cynthia Kenyon was an early pioneer in the genetics of aging.  In 1993, working with the tiny roundworm C. elegans, her lab discovered that mutations in single genes, like daf-2 and daf-16, could change the rate of aging dramatically and double lifespan.  These findings triggered a fundamental paradigm shift in our view of aging, from its being a static process to to a plastic and malleable one.  Subsequent studies from her lab and other labs showed that these, and now many other, mutations produce extraordinary effects on lifespan by activating broad cell-protective genetic programs that normally act to protect the animal from environmental stress.  Remarkably, these gene changes also reduce age-related disease. In her lecture, Dr. Kenyon will talk about her lab’s recent efforts to reverse cellular aging, via rejuvenation, and also how treatments that generate reactive oxygen species, generally thought to be harmful, can extend an animal’s lifespan.  Finally she will discuss how her lab is trying to extend these findings to humans to improve the quality of life as we age.


Cynthia Kenyon is the Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics and the American Cancer Society Research Professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Kenyon graduated valedictorian in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Georgia in 1976.  She received her Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981, where, in the laboratory of Dr. Graham Walker, she was the first to look for genes on the basis of their expression profiles, discovering that DNA damaging agents activate a battery of DNA repair genes in E. coli.  Dr. Kenyon then did postdoctoral studies with Nobel laureate Dr. Sydney Brenner at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, studying the development of C. elegans.

Since 1986 Dr. Kenyon has been at the University of California, San Francisco.  In 1993, Dr. Kenyon and colleagues’ discovery that a single-gene mutation could double the lifespan of C. elegans sparked an intensive study of the molecular biology of aging. These findings have now led to the discovery that an evolutionarily conserved hormone signaling system controls aging in other organisms as well, including mammals.

Dr. Kenyon has received many honors and awards for her findings.  She is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine, and is a past president of the Genetics Society of America.  She is now the director of the Hillblom Center for the Biology of Aging at UCSF.

About the Joshua Lederberg Lecture:
The Joshua Lederberg Lecture is sponsored by The Ellison Medical Foundation in honor of Joshua S. Lederberg, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate and founding Chair of the Ellison Medical Foundation Scientific Advisory Board. Dr. Lederberg’s insight, energy, and creativity were essential to the creation and successful development of The Ellison Medical Foundation over its first ten years.

Share ThisShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this page