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Ongoing Projects

A selection of our interests

Food related behavior controlled by neuronal SKN-1.

Deciding when and how much to eat is crucial for maintaining health and to preventing overeating. Our bodies take in complex molecular signals from our nervous, physiological and metabolic systems, which tell us when we're hungry and when to stop eating, but how these signals work are not yet well understood. We recently published work showing that SKN-1B acts in neurons to control satiety, regulate neuro-endocrine pathways and control mitochondrial homeostasis.

The role of RNA Polymerase III in longevity.

Eukaryotic cells have three nuclear RNA polymerases, Pol I, II and III, with distinct subunit composition and biochemical properties, that each transcribe a specific class of genes.  Pol III is responsible for transcribing hundreds of loci to generate a number of short, non-coding transcripts. These are mostly involved in translation, namely the 5S rRNA and transfer RNAs (tRNAs). Together with collaborators at UCL (UK) and University of Groningen (NL) we showed that reducing RNA Pol III levels increases lifespan in worms, yeast and flies.

Getting the goodness out of waste fruit and vegetables

Agriculture is a major contributor to carbon emissions and waste. It reduces productivity and negatively impacts sustainability. For example cherries that cannot be sold as Class I fresh fruit are transported to landfill. However, these cherries contain valuable bioactive compounds called anthocyanins that have health benefits. We are working with a local farmer to establish the bioactive levels and health benefits of cherry waste so that it can be upcycled into new, healthy food products. This adds value to the ‘waste’ and allows it to be used sustainably to grow the businesses. The health benefits of the resulting products also goes some way to supporting the challenges that society faces due to increases in age-related ill-health and disease.

Transcription Factors that regulate ageing.

Transcription factors control the expression of a wide variety of other genes in the genome. Several transcription factors have been identified as being important for the ageing process. We are particularly interested in two of these are DAF-16 and SKN-1. DAF-16 is the worm homologue of the Mammalian Foxo transcription factor, and SKN-1 the worm homologue of mammalian Nrf. We are interested in how both DAF-16 and SKN-1 act and how they interact with each other. Understanding how these transcription factors act is critical to understanding the ageing process and finding novel ways to intervene in it.

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